Introducing NACCHO’s Public Health Preparedness Law Learning Module

By Geoffrey Mwaungulu Jr., JD, MPH, NACCHO Senior Program Analyst and Madison Ferraro, NACCHO Program Analyst

Public health professionals have become increasingly involved in response efforts supporting communities impacted by bioterrorism, natural disasters, and infectious disease outbreaks. When responding to these public health emergencies legal issues can present significant challenges to mitigating negative outcomes. In an effort to better equip public health agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response coordinated with the CDC Public Health Law Program (PHLP) to develop a set of competencies in public health emergency law. These Public Health Emergency Law (PHEL) Competencies are designed to advance the inclusion of law-based content in all public health emergency training, resources, and tools. The competencies are divided into three domains including Systems Preparedness and Response, Management and Protection of Property and Supplies, and Management and Protection of Persons.

To assist public health professionals in incorporating public health law into emergency preparedness planning, response, and recovery efforts, NACCHO recently released a learning module on preparedness law. Developed using the PHEL Competencies as a guide, the course is designed to:

  • Train participants to consider the law as they participate in emergency preparedness planning and response actives;
  • Prepare participants to confidently respond to changes in the legal environment during declared emergencies that impact the public’s health;
  • Provide participants with an understanding of potential legal powers and duties during declared emergencies, and help participants; and
  • Help participants identify potential legal risks and responsibilities during declared emergencies

The learning module begins by reviewing the foundations of public health law and providing an overview of how federal, state, and local law can impact a person’s health and well-being. Next, the course features three sections based on the PHEL Competencies covering topics such as: types of emergency declarations, interjurisdictional coordination of responses, the HIPAA Privacy Rule, procurement and resource allocation, constitutional impediments to non-pharmaceutical Interventions, and governmental sovereignty. To ensure participants retain information on the various legal concepts discussed in each section, quizzes are incorporated throughout the learning module.

The final portion of the course summarizes overarching themes and provides next steps that participants should take to further their learning. After completion of the module, participants are encouraged to schedule a meeting with their agency’s legal counsel to discuss the concepts they learned.

The learning module can be accessed via NACCHO University at this link (scroll to the bottom of the webpage for direct course link). In order to view the course, individuals must first login using their NACCHO account. Please contact the NACCHO Membership Department at for support with creating a new account. Any additional questions or comments should be directed to NACCHO’s Public Health Law team at

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