LAWS6848 - Law and Health Lifestyles

This unit responds to growing interest in the law's response to tobacco use, obesity, poor diet, alcohol abuse and sedentary lifestyle - the leading causes of preventable disease in Australia, the United States, and increasingly, in developing economies. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and tobacco-related diseases are society's greatest killers, but what can law do - and what should it be doing - to prevent and control them? Although law's relationship with the behavioural risk factors for these non-communicable diseases (or NCDs) is complex and contested, governments are experimenting with a wide range of legal strategies to encourage healthier lifestyles.

This unit focuses on developments in Australia and the United States, and places legal developments in these countries within an international context. The aim of this course is to equip students with conceptual skills to think powerfully about law's role in the prevention of NCDs and their risk factors, and to participate effectively in debates about appropriate, workable, legal and regulatory interventions. Through a comparative approach that draws on legal responses to NCDs in both Australia and the United States, students will explore the tension between personal responsibility and freedom, and the broader public interest in a healthy population and a productive economy.

Key topics include:

  • Frameworks for thinking about law, and environments that support healthier lifestyles;
  • Global health governance and the prevention of non-communicable diseases;
  • Tobacco control: where to from here? Personal responsibility for health, and law's role;
  • Regulating alcohol;
  • Obesity prevention;
  • and Law's role in improving diet and nutrition, and encouraging active living.

Throughout the unit, students will be encouraged to critically evaluate the success of the strategies law adopts to protect and promote public health, to explore new strategies that law might adopt, and to reflect on the tension between the public interest in protecting health, and competing interests


Semester 1 Intensive
10 March 2014 Introduction (6:00PM-8:00PM)
12-14 March & 4 April 2014 (9:00AM-5:00PM)

The timetable is subject to frequent changes. Please refer to the latest version of the Postgraduate Timetable.

Please note: this unit of study is compulsory for Graduate Diploma in Public Health Law GradDipPubHL candidates.

This unit replaced LAWS6848 New Directions in Public Health Law and Policy and may be substituted for LAWS6839 Critical Issues in Public Health Law as a compulsory unit in the MHL.


  • 1 X Short Response Question (20%)


  • 1 x 6,000 Word Essay (80%)


  • 1 x Short Response Question (20%)
  • 1 x 3,000-3,500 Word Essay (40%)
  • 1 x Take-Home Exam Question (40%)


  • 1 X Short Response Question (20%)
  • 2 X 3000-3,500 Word Essays (80%)


Useful references include:

  • Christopher Reynolds, Public and Environmental Health Law, Federation Press, 2011 [Australia focus]
  • Lawrence O. Gostin, Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint, University of California Press, 2nd ed, 2008 [US focus].

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

You can credit this unit towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Units of study that are part of Sydney Law School’s Postgraduate Program meet the necessary Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) of the Law Society of New South Wales and the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements of the New South Wales Bar Association. You may complete this unit of study by enrolling on a non-degree basis or on an audit basis only with no assessment via Single Unit Study.

Courses this unit is available in

Master of Laws | Graduate Diploma in Law | Master of Global Law | Master of Law and International Development | Master of Health Law | Graduate Diploma in Health Law | Graduate Diploma in Public Health Law