This article examines the current state of disease surveillance and reporting in the United States and seeks to answer two central questions: first, whether the increasing emphasis on the global importance of public health policies compels a fundamental reexamination of the long-standing deferential approach to state power where matters of population health surveillance are concerned and, second, how the nation's long-standing deferential legal customs might be modified to address the growing emphasis on global public health policy that is undergirded by technological advances. We examine the International Health Regulations, or IHR (2005), and suggest that these regulations offer a powerful impetus for reevaluating U.S. legal custom concerning the policy and practice of population health surveillance, not only as a matter of U.S. law but also as a core dimension of U.S. legal obligations to other nations, as embodied in international agreements and treaties. We find that if the political will exists to change the domestic disease surveillance and reporting system, the federal government has the power to act. Questions remain, however, about whether the public health and legislative communities are willing to challenge current customs or even if they desire to do so.

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