This week several members of the O’Neill Institute attended and participated in the World Bank’s Law, Justice and Development Week program. On Tuesday morning, members of the Institute led a session on “Law’s Power to Safeguard Global Health.” I moderated the session, and was fortunate to be joined by one of the Co-Chairs of The Lancet – O’Neill Institute, Georgetown University Commission on Global Health and the Law, John Monahan, and one of the Commissioners, Alicia Yamin.
During my conversation with John and Alicia, we discussed why the Commission is needed and why the time is ripe for a Commission on Global Health and the Law. We also discussed the “language barriers” and “translation” issues between the fields of law, public health and medicine. We highlighted that one of the goals of the Commission is to empower the conversation between legal, medical and public health experts on the role of law in improving health and how law can be used as a tool to improve health. John and Alicia provided a wealth of examples from their careers – from discussions regarding the H1N1 vaccination to constitutional courts interpreting medical evidence when determining whether the government needed to provide a particular treatment for a patient.
In addition to John, Alicia and my conversation, Dan Hougendobler and Ana Ayala provided concrete case studies on the role of law in improving global health from varying perspectives. Dan provided a technical case study on the Medicines Patent Pool, its development, current functioning, potential future functioning, and recommendations for its application to other areas of global health besides its current use with HIV medicines and recently announced expansion to Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C medicines. Ana Ayala provided an overview of the LL.M. program and how global capacity development in public health law can have a powerful impact for empowering countries and civil society to develop innovative legal solutions to global health challenges.
We were fortunate that we had a very engaged audience who further propelled our discussion on topics such as the Rule of Law, the legal process, and how various countries are determining maximum available resources for their health systems through constitutional mandates. We also discussed BRIC country patents with respect to the Medicines Patent Pool and challenge of harmful laws that disenfranchise populations and drive stigma and marginalization. Overall, the presentation and discussion demonstrated the incredible range of topics that contribute to the conversation of how law can be used to improve global health. It further demonstrated the power (both positive and negative) that law can have on population health. Most importantly, the conversation demonstrated that the work of the Commission is ripe. Now on to Bellagio!
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.