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    Law as a tool for public health: understand key concepts in public health law and ethics; overview relevant law in New Zealand; skills in research and analysis of current law.

    This paper focuses on the framework, scope and content of core public health law in New Zealand, with the viewpoint of law as a tool for public health. It analyses and discusses key concepts and frameworks in public health ethics with implications for law. It covers basic legal concepts and skills in understanding and researching law and analyses concepts fundamental to public health law and ethics, in particular risk, enforcement and international law. Legal concepts and ethical frameworks are applied to critical topics in public health law: communicable disease, environmental health and public health emergencies. Law and ethical issues relating to risk factors for non-communicable diseases - in particular tobacco, alcohol, food and nutrition - are summarised.

    Includes weekly Zoom conferences, and a compulsory two-day workshop in Wellington: Tuesday February 27th and Wednesday February 28th, both days 9am - 4.30pm.

    About this paper

    Paper title Public Health Law and Public Health Ethics - Fundamentals
    Subject Public Health
    EFTS 0.125
    Points 15 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024 (Distance learning)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,551.63
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    Limited to
    MA, MHealSc, MPH, DPH, PGDipArts, PGDipHealSc, PGDipPHC, PGCertPH, PGCertPHC
    Includes a two-day workshop in Wellington.
    Students who have completed an undergraduate degree in any discipline or recognised equivalent.

    Department of Public Health, Wellington Campus:

    Teaching staff

    Paper convenor and lecturer: Iris Reuvecamp

    Paper Structure

    The paper comprises six modules. It is internally assessed.

    Assessments consist of a short answer exercise, two essays and 5% for participation.

    Course outline by reference to each module:

    The two-day block course lays a foundation for the rest of the paper and provides background with a focus on how law functions, understanding statutes, and an overview of New Zealand's legal framework.

    • This module introduces four key themes: international law, health information, risk and enforcement.
    • This module applies the concepts discussed in the first and second modules to communicable disease topics, including notification, contact tracing and mandatory powers, also referring briefly to immunisation and screening.
    • This module covers the general framework of environmental health law in New Zealand, touching on law related to drinking water and fluoridation. Environmental ethics are also introduced.
    • This module covers quarantine and emergencies and provides an overview of International Health Regulations 2005.
    • This module provides a brief overview of law and ethics related to products such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs and food, with an emphasis on New Zealand law.
    Teaching Arrangements

    The Distance Learning offering of this paper is a combination of remote and in-person teaching.

    Distance taught with weekly Zoom conferences (Wednesdays 5.30pm-7pm beginning 6 March).

    Two-day workshop in Wellington: Tuesday February 27th and Wednesday February 28th, both days 9am - 4.30pm.

    Attendance at the two-day workshop is compulsory.

    No required textbook. Required readings available through Moodle.
    Course outline


    • Short Answer Exercise (10%) due Monday 4 March.
    • Essay (35%) due Monday 18 March.
    • Essay (50%) due Thursday 18 April.
    • Participation in Zoom sessions, discussion boards, block days (5%)


    • No Exam.
    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will:

    • Learn how to find, research and understand law relevant to public health.
    • Understand and analyse key concepts and theories in public health ethics.
    • Critique aspects of core public health law in New Zealand and develop options for change based on legal and ethical considerations.


    Not offered in 2024

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught through Distance Learning
    Learning management system
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