Health Promotion and the First Amendment: Government Control of the Informational Environment

Lawrence O. Gostin, Gail H. Javitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Government efforts to protect public health often include controlling health information. The government may proscribe messages conveyed by commercial entities (e.g., false or misleading), recommend messages from commercial entities (e.g., warnings and safety instructions), and convey health messages (e.g., health communication campaigns). Through well-developed, albeit evolving, case law, government control of private speech has been constrained to avoid impinging on such values as free expression, truthfulness, and autonomous decision making. No simple legal framework has been developed for the government's own health messages to mediate between the legitimate goals of health protection and these other values. Nevertheless, government recommendations on matters of health raise difficult social and ethical questions and involve important societal trade-offs. Accordingly, this article proposes legal and ethical principles relating to government control of the health information environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-578
Number of pages32
JournalMilbank Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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