Peter D. Jacobson, J.D., M.P.H.

Peter Jacobson

Professor of Health Law and Policy

Director, Center for Law, Ethics, and Health

President, Public Health Law Association

1415 Washington Heights      Vcard icon
3611A SPH Tower
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2029

Office: (734) 936-0928; Fax: (734) 764-4338


Website(s): Center for Law, Ethics, and Health

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Professional Summary

Peter D. Jacobson is Professor of Health Law and Policy in the Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Director, Center for Law, Ethics, and Health. He received his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1970, and a Masters in Public Health from UCLA in 1988. Before coming to the University of Michigan, he was Senior Behavioral Scientist at RAND from 1988 to 1996. His current research interests focus on the relationship between law and health care delivery and policy, law and public health systems, and health care safety net services.

In 1995, he received an Investigator Award in Health Policy Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to examine the role of the courts in shaping health care policy. The project culminated in the publication of the book Strangers in the Night: Law and Medicine in the Managed Care Era (Oxford University Press, 2002). Jacobson is co-author of a law school casebook with Lawrence O. Gostin, David Hyman, and David Studdert titled Law and the Health System (Foundation Press, 2014), and is also a co-author of False Hope vs. Evidence-Based Medicine: The Story of a Failed Treatment for Breast Cancer (Oxford University Press, 2007).  He is currently the Associate Editor for Health Law and Public Health at the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.  Starting in January, 2015, Jacobson will be a member of the Washtenaw County (Michgan) Board of Health.

Professor Jacobson's current research interests focus on the relationship between law and health care delivery, law and public health systems, public health ethics, and health care safety net services. For instance, recent studies have examined public health entrepreneurship, the impact of state and federal law on public health preparedness, and enhancing organizational and operational efficiencies in Michigan's health care safety net providers.  A current project examines adaptive strategies for Michigan's health departments.

Courses Taught

HMP615: Introduction to Public Health Policy    Syllabus (PDF)
HMP652: Health Law    Syllabus (PDF)
HMP659: Health Care Regulation
PUBHLTH600: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Public Health Challenges


J.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Law, 1970
M.P.H., Health Services, University of California Los Angeles, 1988
A.B., History, Dickinson College, 1967

Research Interests & Projects

Network for Public Health Law, Mid-States Region
Sponsor: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Assessing the Impact of Federal and State Law on Public Health Preparedness
Sponsor: CDC

Public Health Entrepreneurship
Sponsor: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Care Financing and Organizations Program through Academy Health

Enhancing Organizational and Operational Efficiencies in Michigan's Health Care Safety Net Providers
Sponsor: Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation

Examining Adaptive Strategies in Michigan's Health Departments
Principal Investigator: Peter D. Jacobson
Sponsor: The Kresge Foundation

The purpose of this project is to understand how Michigan’s local health departments (LHDs) are designing future public health efforts in the context of health reform.  In the project, we will examine how changes in the health care environment, especially the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion, are influencing the strategic options public health officials are considering or adopting to protect the public’s health.  A key goal is to help position Michigan as a leader in managing the public health system’s transition to a new health care environment. 

This transition presents exciting opportunities for LHDs as active stakeholders in using health reform to improve the public’s health.  Thus, the project’s primary objectives are to:  (1) understand the adaptive strategies Michigan’s LHDs are developing in response to the ACA and Medicaid expansion; (2) examine the ways in which LHDs are working with local health systems and community organizations to help integrate clinical care and population health; and (3) provide recommendations to policymakers and practitioners.

To achieve these objectives, we will identify the key adaptive strategies LHDs have considered, how they are being implemented, and how success will be measured.  We will also identify successful strategies that could assist LHDs in linking health reform to improved population health outcomes.  Our primary approach will be to conduct interviews with key officials throughout the state.  This activity will include individual interviews with health officers and other stakeholders, such as elected officials, private sector health professionals, and community-based organizations. 


We expect that the project will facilitate health departments’ strategic adaptations to health reform. The project will also assist LHDs in contributing to the integration of population health and clinical care.  The Kresge Foundation is funding the project.

Selected Publications

Search PubMed for publications by Peter Jacobson >>

Jacobson PD, Wasserman J, Wu H, and Lauer JR (2015). Public Health Enterpreneurship: Disruptive Change to Public Health American Journal of Public Health (forthcoming)

Parmet WE and Jacobson PD (2014). The Courts and Public Health: Caught in a Pincer Movement American Journal of Public Health, 104, 392-397.

Gostin LO, Jacobson PD, Hyman DA, and Studdert DM (2014). Law and the Health System 2nd ed

Jacobson PD (2014). Changing the Culture of Health: One Public Health Misstep at a Time Society, 51(3), 221-228.

Jacobson PD,McHugh S, and Tran V (2013). Risk Governance and Population Health Jurimetrics, 53, 279-292.

Jacobson PD, Waserman J, Botoseneanu A, Silverstein A, and Wu HW (2012). The Role of Law in Public Health Preparedness: Opportunities and Challenges Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 37, 297-328.

Botoseneanu, A., Wu, H. Wasserman, J. Jacobson, P.D. (2011). Achieving public health legal preparedness: How dissonant views on public health law threaten emergency preparedness and response. Journal of Public Health, 33(3), 361-368.

Jacobson, PD, and Jazowski S (2011). Physicians, the Affordable Care Act, and Primary Care: Disruptive Change or Business as Usual? Journal of General Internal Medicine, 26, 934-937.

Jacobson, P.D., Napiewocki, L.M., & Voigt, L.A. (2011). Regulating the U.S. health care system: Failure in motion. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law., 36, 583-589.

Jacobson, P.D., & Mathur, S. K. (2010). Health law 2010: It's not all about the money. American Journal of Law and Medicine, 36, 389-404.

Professional Affiliations

Board of Editors, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law
Associate Editor for Health Law and Public Health, Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law
Academy Health
American Public Health Association
American Health Lawyers Association