Can Disease Be Governed?

An Emory scholar receives a Carnegie Fellowship to study government response to epidemics
Price

Emory Photo/Video

CASE SCENARIOS When is it appropriate to prioritize public safety over civil liberties? Polly Price explores the tricky balance of power among the federal government, state and local authorities, and health organizations in the face of serious public health threats—a system that has not been fully tested in the US.

Polly Price, professor of law and professor of global health at Emory, has been named one of thirty-five recipients of the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship. Price will use her award to write a book about how governments confront the challenge of contagious disease.

“The book’s premise is that we have much to learn from the study of governmental response to public health crises in the past,” says Price. Drawing from historical examples, the book will provide a set of important lessons for lawmakers. “The goal is to help initiate, encourage, and frame the terms of public debate on how government may best respond to health threats in the future.”

As a professor of both law and global health, Price is well-positioned to provide insights on government responses to epidemics. She also serves as a faculty member in health law and regulatory policy with the Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center.

In 2013, Price was one of six professors chosen for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Scholar-in-Residence Program, where she worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the US-Mexico Border Health Commission to study tuberculosis control measures along the southern US border.

Price’s book, Governing Disease: Epidemics, Law, and the Challenge of Disease Control in a Democratic Society, will offer three examples that shed light on both successes and failures in government responses to past epidemics: yellow fever in the nineteenth century, tuberculosis and the modern challenge of antibiotic drug resistance, and HIV/AIDS.

As a Carnegie fellow, Price will receive up to $200,000 toward funding her research and writing for the project—the most generous stipend of its kind. The Carnegie program recognizes exceptional established and emerging scholars, journalists, and authors with the goal of strengthening US democracy, driving technological and cultural creativity, exploring global connections and global ruptures, and improving both natural and human environments.

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