Rebalancing Public Health Powers and Individual Liberty in the Age Of COVID

Stanford's Michelle Mello and her colleague Lawrence O. Gostin at Georgetown University analyze the strains that public health emergency powers underwent during the pandemic, then propose reforms to modernize public health law.
Illustration of public health law
Getty Images

Public health emergency powers laws in the US underwent a profound stress test during the COVID-19 pandemic. Designed with bioterrorism in mind, they struggled to meet the challenges of a multiyear pandemic. Public health legal powers in the US are both too limited, in that they don’t clearly permit officials to implement measures necessary to combat epidemics, and too broad, in that their accountability mechanisms fall short of public expectations. Recently, some courts and state legislatures have cut deeply into emergency powers, jeopardizing future emergency response. Instead of this curtailment of essential powers, the states and Congress should modernize emergency powers laws to balance powers and individual rights in more productive ways. In this analysis we propose reforms including meaningful legislative checks on executive power, stronger substantive standards for executive orders, mechanisms for public and legislative input, and clearer authority to issue orders affecting groups of people.



Read More

The Capitol Building

The Public Health Fixes that Missed the Omnibus Bill

In this JAMA Health Forum commentary, SHP's Michelle Mello and colleagues argue that the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill that Congress passed in December 2022 responds to several urgent public health needs, yet only narrowly addresses some of the critical determinants of pandemic preparedness.
The Public Health Fixes that Missed the Omnibus Bill
Clinical trail test tubes

A New System to Encourage Greater Inclusion in Drug Research

A new paper by Michelle Mello and colleagues at Stanford and Yale outlines the "fair inclusion score," which ranks pharmaceutical companies on their inclusion of racial and ethnic minoritized groups, women, and the elderly in clinical trials.
A New System to Encourage Greater Inclusion in Drug Research