Launched in April 2015, the Lancet-O’Neill Institute, Georgetown University Commission on Global Health and the Law examined the vital role of law in responding to major global health challenges. The commission made an innovative case for the power of law to improve health while revealing the opportunities and challenges under the status quo, identifying evidence-based means by which law can contribute to improved health outcomes, enhance the ways in which health and safety are prioritized in law and policy, and examining how international organizations, governing processes, and instruments can support, reinforce, and incentivize countries’ development of domestic laws to improve the public’s health.
The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and Georgetown University believe that law plays a fundamental, yet underutilized and underdeveloped, role in providing solutions to global health challenges. By “law” we mean the statutes and regulations that express public policy as well as public institutions, including courts, legislatures and agencies, responsible for creating, implementing, and interpreting the law.
Focused on the complex interaction between laws impacting health at the national, regional, and international levels, this unique commission: (1) identified evidence-based means by which law can contribute to improved health and safety outcomes; (2) stressed the ways in which health can be prioritized in law and policy; and (3) examined how international organizations, governing processes, and instruments can support, reinforce, and incentivize countries’ development of domestic laws to improve the public’s health.
The commission built on existing scholarship, previous Lancet commissions, and ongoing law reform and international disputes. To ensure the unique but holistic nature of the commission’s scholarship, commissioners were chosen from an international roster of experts in fields ranging from health, policy, and law to economics and governance. Importantly, the commission reflects diverse geographical backgrounds and multiple sectors such as international organizations, governments, academia, and civil society.
The commission made recommendations on the role of law in establishing overarching normative guidance on global health, including encouraging countries and international bodies to adopt laws that have demonstrated a positive impact on health outcomes. These recommendations not only supported previous recommendations but presented new suggestions for forward progress in global health.
The commission aimed to present a compelling argument as to why law should be viewed as a major determinant of health and safety and how the law can be utilized as a powerful and innovative tool to address pressing global health concerns.