Public Health and the Law

Daphne Robinson walkway to waterPublic health law has deep historical roots, but it has only recently emerged as a distinct area of legal study. Part of what distinguishes public health law is its focus on prevention and populations: whereas healthcare law generally focuses on the delivery of treatment to individual patients, public health law generally focuses on preventing injury and disease by lowering health risks among populations. Thus, a public health intervention, such as requiring cars to have airbags, may not decrease any particular individual’s risk of death as much as an expensive surgical procedure could, but when spread across a population, such interventions can make a huge difference in morbidity and mortality rates.  

After working with the MacArthur Foundation in various areas of the Models for Change Initiative from 2005 to 2010, Robinson decided to expand her formal education and combine the two disciplines of public health practice and the law in order to achieve sustainable, community based alternatives to the criminal justice system.

Throughout her time as an Assistant District Attorney, Daphne Robinson found that many of the people she prosecuted suffered from substance abuse and mental health issues. She realized that the criminal justice system is ill-equipped to deal with mental and behavioral health issues and actually does more harm than good for many offenders. Robinson believes that preventing crime and violence is a public health issue that can best be addressed through a variety of solutions, such as diversion programs, treatment and smarter sentencing.

Daphne will complete her Masters in Public Health from the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in 2015.  Using her vast years of experience as an Assistant District Attorney and her knowledge of public health policy, Daphne Robinson is creating change in her community and advocating for reform of the criminal justice system throughout the country.