Research Grants

Professor Roger Magnusson: Research Project: Law + Chronic Disease Prevention

What this project is about

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has funded Professor Roger Magnusson to research legal and regulatory approaches to the prevention of chronic, non-communicable diseases. The project is called: “Lifestyle wars: law’s role in responding to the challenge of non-communicable diseases” (2006-2008).

Public health law is often thought of as a discipline concerned about environmental nuisances, clean water, food safety and microbial control. More recently, communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, and the threat of pandemic influenza have been added to the list.

In fact, the most serious health threats facing Australia today are chronic, non-communicable diseases: heart disease and stroke, diabetes, various cancers and the many diseases caused by tobacco use. The immediate causes of these diseases are well established. They include modifiable behavioural risk factors such as smoking, poor diet, and lack of physical activity, and non-modifiable risk factors including age and heredity. These factors are expressed through physiological risk factors including overweight and obesity, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and raised blood glucose.

At the global level, due to population growth and the relative success of efforts to reduce communicable diseases, the absolute number of people with heart disease, diabetes and tobacco-related diseases will almost certainly continue to rise. For this reason, public health planning must recognise the critical importance of strengthening the capacity of primary health care systems to treat chronic disease in ageing populations. At the same time, there are exciting possibilities for encouraging healthy ageing, by postponing death and illness from chronic disease. Substantial gains in public health – longer and healthier lives for ourselves and our families, more vibrant communities and stronger economies – can be achieved through policies to improve patterns of behaviour in the community around smoking, diet and exercise.

The role that law and regulation can play in these efforts is heavily contested, and is the focus of the research program.

Publications arising from this project
  • Magnusson R, “Personal Responsibility, Obesity Prevention and Front-of-Pack Food Labelling” Public Health Bulletin SA – Public Health Law, Vol. 6, No. 3, November 2009, pp 12-18.
  • “Rethinking Global Health Challenges: Towards a ‘Global Compact’ for Reducing the Burden of Chronic Disease” (2009) 123 Public Health 265-274; at:
  • Alexander S, Baur L, Magnusson R, Tobin B, “When Does Severe Childhood Obesity Become a Child Protection Issue?” (2009) 190 Medical Journal of Australia 136-139.
  • Magnusson R “Conceptualising Policy Options for Obesity Prevention – Response to ‘Counteracting Obesity: Developing a Policy Framework to Guide Action’” (2008) 53 International Journal of Public Health 317-319
  • Magnusson R “What’s Law Got to Do with It? Part 2: Legal Strategies for Healthier Nutrition and Obesity Prevention” Australia and New Zealand Health Policy 2008; 5:11, at:
  • Magnusson R, “What’s Law Got to Do with It? Part 1: A Framework for Obesity Prevention” Australia and New Zealand Health Policy 2008; 5:10, at:
  • Magnusson R, “Obesity: Should There be a Law Against It? Introduction to a Symposium” Australia and New Zealand Health Policy 2008, 5:9, at:
  • Magnusson R, “Developing a Global Framework to Address Non-communicable Diseases” (2008) 53 Diabetes Voice 9-12 [special issue on chronic diseases management]. Diabetes Voice is the magazine of the International Diabetes Federation. at:
  • Magnusson R; Colagiuri R, “The Law and Chronic Disease Prevention: Possibilities and Politics” (2008) 188 Medical Journal of Australia 104-105, at:
  • Magnusson R, “Mapping the Scope and Opportunities for Public Health Law in Liberal Democracies” (2007) 35 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 571-587, also at:
  • Magnusson R, “Non-communicable Diseases and Global Health Governance: Enhancing Global Processes to Improve Health Development”, Globalization and Health, 2007, 3:2; doi:10.1186/1744-8603-3-2, available at:
Unpublished papers
Conference papers, orations


  • “Policies for Populations, Not Just Individuals: ‘Personal Responsibility’ and Policy Leadership on Obesity Prevention and Public Health Nutrition”, American Public Health Association, 137th Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, 10 November 2009.
  • “Partnerships, Collective Action and the Global Response to Chronic, Noncommunicable Diseases”, Global Health Beyond the Millennium Development Goals, Seminar, Centre for Health Governance, Law & Ethics, 6 August 2009.
  • “Global Health Governance: Asking Some Naïve Questions”, Response to Keynote Presentation by Dr Tikki Pang, Director, Research Policy & Cooperation, World Health Organisation, delivering the inaugural S.T. Lee Lecture, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, 16 July 2009.
    Written paper | Slides & Audio
  • “Re-thinking Global Health Challenges: Towards a ‘Global Compact’ for Reducing the Burden of Chronic Disease”, 12th World Congress on Global Health, Istanbul, Turkey, 30 April 2009.
  • “Here Comes the Law of Obesity: Possibilities and Priorities”, Symposium on Food Law and Policy, Deakin University, 16-18 January 2009.


  • “Catalysts for Change: Legal Pathways to Healthy, Active Local Environments”, American Public Health Association, 136th Annual Meeting, San Diego, 28 October 2008.
  • “Obesity: Should there be a Law About it? Ten Priorities for Law in Obesity Prevention”, Population Health Congress, 8 July 2008, Brisbane.
  • “Tobacco Product Regulation, Harm Reduction, and Smoking Cessation”, Business as Usual? Debating the Role of Industry in Meeting the Challenges of Chronic Disease, Conference hosted by the Centre for Health Governance, Law & Ethics, Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, 29 February 2008.


  • “Imagining the Future: Law and Tobacco Control Towards a sub-10% Prevalence Environment”, American Public Health Association, 135th Annual Meeting, Washington DC, 6 November 2007
  • “Beyond the Blame Game: Liberty, Personal Responsibility and the Challenges of ‘Lifestyle Diseases’”, 2007 Oration, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, Australian National University and University of Sydney; 17 September 2007 [Conference abstract | Written paper | Slides]
  • “Imagining the Future: A Short History of the Future of Tobacco Control Law & Regulation” Oceania Tobacco Control Conference, Auckland, 4-7 September 2007.


  • “Towards a Conceptual Framework for Relating Law to Obesity Prevention”, Obesity: Should there be a Law Against it? Conference co-hosted by the Centre for Health Governance, Law & Ethics, University of Sydney, and the Australian & New Zealand Institute of Health Law & Ethics (ANZIHLE), 28 September 2006.
  • “Non-communicable Diseases and the Determinants of Health: What Opportunities for Law?” 37th Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) Annual Conference, Sydney, 26 September 2006.
  • “Strategic Re-Positioning in the Tobacco Industry: What, If Anything, Has Changed?”, 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health, Washington DC, 15 July 2006.


  • “Strategic Choices for Law and Regulation in Tobacco Control”, 3rd Australian Tobacco Control Conference, Darling Harbour, Sydney, 24 November 2005
Select resources and documents

Select resources

Select documents

  • World Health Organisation: WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2008: the MPower Package, Geneva: WHO, 2008


  • Olusoji Adeyi, Owen Smith, Sylvia Robles, Public Policy and the Challenge of Chronic Noncommunicable Diseases, Washington DC: The World Bank, 2007
  • World Health Organisation: The Scientific Basis of Tobacco Product Regulation: Report of a WHO Study Group, WHO Technical Report Series 945, Geneva: WHO, 2007
  • Royal College of Physicians (UK), Harm Reduction in Nicotine Addiction: Helping People Who Can’t Quit, London: RCP, 2007