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Adventures in Nannydom: Reclaiming Collective Action for the Public's Health

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2021


Each of us has written about the importance of reframing the debate over public health paternalism. Our individual explorations of the many and varied paths forward from libertarian “nanny state” objections to the “new public health” have been intimately informed by collaboration. This article represents a summary of our current thinking — reflecting the ground gained through many fruitful exchanges and charting future collaborative efforts.

Our starting point is that law is a vitally important determinant of population health, and the interplay among law, social norms, cultural beliefs, health behaviors, and healthy living conditions is complex. Anti-paternalists’ efforts to limit the scope of public health law to controlling only the proximal determinants of infectious diseases are utterly unjustifiable in the face of so much preventable death, disability, and disparity. Equally important, the anti-paternalism push is deeply counter-majoritarian and undemocratic, threatening to disable communities from undertaking measures to improve their own well-being.

JLME Supplement
Copyright © American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics 2015

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