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Course Overview

This self-study course examines the intersection of politics and public health as well as the personal liberty and discriminatory consequences that can occur when public health policy is influenced by factors beyond commonly accepted medical opinion and scientific evidence.

Part 1 is a case study of the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak and an intense five weeks of events in the United States that illustrates the roles public fear, the media, and politicians can play in developing public health policy, as well as the extraordinary consequences of their involvement.  

The Ebola outbreak, unlike the novel Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus COVID-19, involved a known disease. Nevertheless, the policy evolution, messaging missteps, and human rights impacts bear similarity to what we have seen occur in the United States as we are now three years into an ongoing global pandemic.

Part 2 uses the case study developed in Part 1 to illustrate concepts scholars use to describe the distinction between how health professionals and politicians develop public health policy. Part 2 also explores policy drivers and motivators, the roles risk perception and uncertainty play in the policy development process, and the unintended consequences that can occur when public health policy is designed to placate fear instead of being grounded in science. Exploration of the literature using the case study provides insight for navigating the current and next U.S. health crisis. 

About the Instructor

Lynda Peters worked as a career prosecutor for thirty years, both at the county level and as the City of Chicago’s chief prosecutor. During this time she became involved in local homeland security-related issues, participating in infectious disease preparedness and response activities, conducting extensive public safety policy analysis, and engaging in continuity of operations and city-wide emergency operations planning.

It was while working as the City Prosecutor that Peters obtained a Master of Arts in Security Studies (Homeland Security and Defense) from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. She received her Juris Doctorate from DePaul University College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Michigan.

Peters joined the CHDS faculty a brief time after graduation, in 2013, and has since co-taught a variety of courses in the Master’s Program. She has also served as faculty or adjunct faculty for a number of educational institutions, including DePaul University College of Law and the National College of District Attorneys where she taught litigation skills and evidence for prosecutors. She also taught legal ethics to law students at both Northwestern University Law School and the University of Chicago Law School.

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