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Experts Call to Use the Law to Advance Global Health

CONTACT: Johan Marulanda / jm3245@georgetown.edu

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: April 30th, 2019 6:30 PM EDT

April 30, 2019 WASHINGTON D.C. | An international commission of legal and global health experts build a compelling case and give seven recommendations on how the law can be used as a tool to ensure the public’s health and safety in a new Commission report in the Lancet.

The Lancet – O’Neill Institute, Georgetown University Commission on Global Health and the Law brings together 16 experts from academia, national ministries of health, and international organizations to examine the role of the law in addressing current global health challenges.

In the report The Legal Determinants of Health: Harnessing the Power of Law for Global Health and Sustainable Development, the authors write that, “Law can address the most pressing concerns of the 21st century… From tobacco control, non-communicable diseases, and road safety, to health emergencies, law can implement evidence-based interventions to save lives.”

Supporting public health and equity requires cooperation and coordination between and among countries, especially in a globalized world. “Law can be a powerful tool for advancing global health, yet it remains substantially underutilized and poorly understood.”

Experts explain that law reform can build better and more strategic linkages between health and law, and the professionals in both fields. Greater coordination between the fields can lead to robust health systems and services for all populations.

“Law reform holds enormous promise. With the ability to effect real change at the population level,” argue the authors. “Law should be considered among the key tools of the global health community.”

The report highlights how the law can build strong health systems that ensure safe and nutritious food, evaluate and approve drugs and vaccines, create healthier workplaces, and improves built and natural environments.

The commission gives recommendations for the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and governments on how to use the law to advance population health, such as:

  • Governments strengthening or creating legal frameworks, like a constitutional right to health, to ensure equity and non-discrimination.
  • UN, WHO, and others should create or adopt good governance standards for equity, inclusive participation, transparency, and accountability.
  • WHO should develop evidence-base for public health laws and support implementation sustainable health laws.

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center is the premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its mission is to contribute to a more powerful and deeper understanding of the multiple ways in which law can be used to improve the public’s health, using objective evidence as a measure. The O’Neill Institute seeks to advance scholarship, science, research, and teaching that will encourage key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil society to employ the law as a positive tool for enabling more people in the United States and throughout the world to lead healthier lives.