Disclosure to Public Health

In cases where it is appropriate, information can be disclosed to public health officials without consent of the individual if such disclosure is allowed by LAFOIP. The following sections of LAFOIP are those that are most likely to apply in such cases:

  • Section 28(2)(n) of LAFOIP allows disclosure of personal information when the public interest outweighs invasion of privacy or where disclosure would clearly benefit the individual to whom the information relates.
  • Section 28(2)(l) allows disclosure where necessary to protect the mental health or physical health or safety of any individual.
  • Section 28(2)(i) allows disclosure for the purpose of complying with an Act or regulations, such as public health regulation requirements;
  • Section 10(c) of the LAFOIP Regulations provides that personal information can be disclosed where disclosure may reasonably be expected to assist in the provision of services for the benefit of the individual to whom the information relates.

Public health employees will be bound by the provision of The Health Information Protection Act (HIPA) regarding the information that is provided to them.


A simple way to ensure that schools can share information without complaints from parents is to advise that one of the purposes the information might be used is public health. Parents can be given the opportunity to say they do not want the information shared.

If parents refuse consent, while it may still be legally possible for the board of education (board) to share the information within the provisions of LAFOIP, alternative methods can be sought. For example, the board could deliver the information from public health to the parents.


There is a long history of sharing information in order for children and society to benefit from immunization. The disclosure of student information to public health employees so that they can contact students or parents directly would be acceptable in accordance with section 28(2)(n)(i) of LAFOIP where public interest outweighs privacy; section 28(2)(n)(ii) where disclosure would clearly benefit the individual; and section 10(c)of LAFOIP Regulations where it would assist in the provision of services.

Information disclosed should be the minimum required by public health in order to provide the services. Commonly requested information includes:

  • A list of all children in a school so that public health can determine which children are not receiving immunizations;
  • Names, contact numbers and addresses of parents- this will enable the public health nurse to follow up and ensure that the program is fully understood and available, if desired; and/or
  • HSN allows public health to cross-reference information and ensure that accurate records are maintained.

It is recommended that the disclosure of information should be addressed at the administrative level on a division–wide basis. A division–wide protocol developed in conjunction with the local health authority to ensure requests for information forwarded to central office may be a useful approach.

Public health is responsible for explaining immunization procedures and for obtaining informed consent for the immunizations.

Communicable Diseases

Section 231(2)(l) of The Education Act, 1995 requires teachers to:

“Exclude from the teacher’s classroom any pupil suspected to be suffering from, or of being convalescent from or in contact, with, a communicable disease and immediately report that exclusion to the principal who shall give notification of the exclusion and the reasons for it to the medical health officer.”

Section 38(1)(c) of The Public Health Act, 1994 requires a teacher or the principal of a school to report to a medical health officer if it is suspected that a student has a communicable disease. The report must be made within 48 hours and must include the name, age, sex, address and phone number of the person suspected to have the communicable disease.

Communicable diseases are those listed in The Disease Control Regulations, 2003 enacted pursuant to The Public Health Act. Category I diseases include infections such as measles, chickenpox, mumps, rubella, West Nile virus and hepatitis A. Category II diseases include hepatitis B, C and D , HIV and AIDS , tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections.

If there is any doubt whether or not something should be reported to public health, the local public health office should be contacted to determine whether or not the disease is listed.

Head lice are not considered to be one of the conditions that needs to be reported.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

A specific request from public health often arises when a student has been named as a partner by someone with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The information sought by Public Health is generally confirmation that a named student attends school and contact information for that student. Public Health may also ask for the opportunity to meet with the student at the school.

Section 38(1)(k.1) of The Public Health Act, 1994 provides that a medical health officer may make an order to:

“require a person with knowledge of the names of members of a group to disclose to a medical health officer the names of individual members of that group who are suspected by a medical health officer of:

(i) having been in contact with a person infected with a communicable disease; or
(ii) having been infected with a communicable disease”

Giving Public Health access to contact information will be to the benefit of the student. It will allow the students access to counselling and information about treatment of the STD, if required. The minimal information required can, therefore, be disclosed (LAFOIP section 28(2)(i)(l)(n) and section 10 of the LAFOIP Regulations).

Another issue to be considered is whether or not the board should advise parents of the Public Health request. The head must determine whether or not telling the parents will unreasonably infringe the privacy rights of the student. Various factors to consider will include:

  • the age of the student;
  • the maturity of the student;
  • the seriousness of the issue as it affects the health of the student;
  • the nature of the relationship with parents or other family issues;
  • other assistance the student is accessing;
  • the wishes of the student; and/or
  • the response of the student to the situation.

There is no specific age requirement and good judgement based on an evaluation of the individual circumstances will be determinative.