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Book and Media Reviews
February 2, 2011

Public Health Law and Ethics

JAMA. 2011;305(5):509-510. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.63

Public health is an essential function of government on a par with—and for reasons similar to—national defense and law enforcement. As the experience of failed states shows, resolving disputes in an orderly fashion under the rule of law is an important public health measure. Furthermore, specific public health needs, such as sanitation systems and clean water, cannot be met by individuals acting alone. Government is required to organize community efforts as well as compel cooperation when necessary, because individuals would otherwise be free to benefit from, but not contribute to, the resulting public goods.