Prevention has become a central focus for health care payers, providers, policy makers, and the general public. Given the centrality of prevention to public health science, practice, and law, it would seem that conditions are ripe for the public health law renaissance to expand beyond legal and scientific circles to permeate the general consciousness. Yet, public health law and policy interventions continue to face considerable political and legal opposition. The population perspective—which emphasizes the social determinants of health, collective action to create healthier communities, and communitarian rationales for prioritizing health—is as important to public health problem-solving as the prevention orientation. But it conflicts with the individualistic orientation that dominates American legal, cultural, and social discourse. This article suggests that public health law and policy debates offer important opportunities for public health advocates to reach across silos to promote the population perspective that unites the field. The article explores contrasting explanations for disease, injury, premature death, and health disparities offered by the population perspective and the individualistic orientation; political and cultural barriers that stand in the way of innovative law and policy interventions; and normative tensions between the communitarian population perspective and self-interested rationales for investment in prevention.

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