Public Health Law
In the UK, extensive public health laws exist to prevent people from getting ill. While illness is not entirely avoidable, there are laws in place that can prevent the spread of it. From vaccination programs, to disease control, the public health act covers a variety of issues that concern society as a whole.
Public Health and Notifiable Diseases
Under public health law, there are certain diseases that are notifiable. This means that a medical practitioner who detects them has a duty to disclose the case to a local health board. Some of these diseases are notifiable due to their severe nature, while others are notifiable in order to ensure that illness prevention measures can be put in place. In a few rare cases, a disease is notifiable so that the local farming community can be made aware of its existence.
One example of a severe disease that is notifiable is Meningitis C. When caught, this strain of Meningitis has the potential to kill with hours. It is particularly prevalent during the winter, and at universities. By making it notifiable, the Department of Health (DoH) has made it possible to alert doctors and hospitals when there are outbreaks. As such, medical professionals can watch out for cases when examining symptoms in their patients.
In terms of illness prevention measures, certain sexually transmitted diseases need to be notified. For example, HIV/AIDS. By making HIV/AIDS notifiable, the government has been able to track outbreaks and initiate responses accordingly.
In relation to the farming community, campylo-bacter is an example of a notifiable disease. This is due to it thriving in chickens. While it is hard to detect while a chicken is alive, being alerted to its presence when a human contracts it is a good way for doctors to watch out for strains that farmers may be able to treat in their poultry.
Public Health and Immunisation
Another way that public health law protects the public is through the immunisation programs that are available. Currently, these programs are not mandatory in childhood. However, it is the law that certain vaccinations must be offered to a child at various stages throughout their life. Parents are not legally obligated to take healthcare professionals up on their offer to immunise their child, however, failure to follow an immunisation program may be recognised as a sign of neglect--when present alongside other factors.
The only collective group of individuals who are compelled to respond to immunisation programs is healthcare professionals. Prior to beginning work with the NHS, nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals must undergo an occupational health check. This check determines their immunity to certain conditions. It also established whether they are adequately vaccinated. In the instance that they are not, healthcare professionals must receive certain vaccinations. By doing this, they can prevent the spread of certain diseases to those they are treating.
Public Health and Nutrition
The UK's public health laws on nutrition stem from domestic and EU sources. These laws penetrate into the world of social work, hospitals, parenting, and the food market.
On a commercial level, food companies are not allowed to make outlandish claims about their products. For example, they may not state that a product can absolutely lower cholesterol, but they can advertise it as an aid. In addition to this, formula milk providers are not allowed to advertise products for babies under the age of 6 months. For products that attend to the needs of babies over that age, they must clearly state that breastfeeding is the better option.
As far as social work is concerned, public health law makes it clear that social workers can attend to the needs of children who are not being adequately nourished. These laws usually apply to those who are not being fed, but can also be extended to children whose parents only provide them with food that is bad for their health. In hospitals, public health law covers the preparation of food and provides set nutrition guidelines that are set to meet the needs of patients who are hospitalised.
The European Union consistently works on improving Europe-wide public health regulations that need to be adopted. The majority of those extend into the food manufacturing process, but some of them apply to labeling as well. Food sold and produced in Europe generally needs to have clear guidelines regarding its content. It is also against public health laws to lie about what the food contains. For example, the 2013 horse meat scandal led to a series of sanctions against the meat manufacturers who claimed that they were selling beef when it was really horse meat. Finally, meat manufacturers need to follow a certain manufacturing process, and the details of this process are available to the public. By doing this, it is possible to make sure that the public are aware of the additives used during the food manufacturing process.
Public Responsibility Agreements and Public Health
In Britain, there is a public and private sector. While the government can have a direct say in what happens in the public sector, the private sector is governed by a blend of corporate responsibility and the law. There are certain public health measures that the private sector legally has to follow. For example, restaurant and kitchen facilities must be kept clean to a certain standard. Workplaces and other private sector buildings must ensure they have catered to the health needs of those using their services by engaging in practices like garbage disposal.
Public Health Law Governing Bodies
One of the key governing bodies overseeing public health is the Department of Health (DoH). Alongside other public agencies, the DoH works towards making sure that public health laws and guidelines are followed. For example, they will interact with social services and hospitals to make sure service users are being cared for properly. In addition to this, each NHS local health board assists with governing public health.
Public health laws help us ensure we are safe in many ways. From immunisation programs, to how the food we eat is produced, each regulation works towards keeping us safe and healthy.