On May 1, The Lancet — O’Neill Institute, Georgetown University Commission on Global Health and the Law launched its groundbreaking report on how law can be used to advance health. The Commission was created to examine the vital role of law in responding to major global health challenges, and its report, Legal Determinants of Health: Harnessing the Power of Law for Global Health and Sustainable Development makes an innovative case for the power of law to improve health.
Held at Georgetown Law, the Commission’s launch event brought together world-renowned public health professionals to discuss the report and its recommendations for how to bridge the gap between health and law to improve lives.
During the opening remarks, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus discussed the importance of health with justice. “Health equity is a question of justice and health is a fundamental human right,” said Tedros in his video address.
The event featured a keynote address by U.S. Congresswoman Donna Shalala, who commented on the need for political will to realize health care as a human in the U.S. and around the world.
The Congresswoman said, “We are at a crossroads in which we are going to see whether health care is a fundamental right and whether the people that lead the world’s nations have the political will to set [it] up.”
“Solutions to long standing health problems requires the perspective and collaboration between medical, science, law, policy and advocacy”, said Georgetown University Medical Center Executive Dean Edward Healton in his welcome address. O’Neill Institute Co-Founder Timothy O’Neill noted that “there is an underutilized capacity of law to influence all the missions of global health”, and the Commission’s report presents a compelling argument as to why law should be viewed as a major determinant of health and safety.
The launch also featured brief presentations and panel discussions among nine top minds in public health, moderated by Commission Co-Chairs, Lawrence Gostin and John Monahan. Each speaker highlighted ways in which the new framework introduced in the report could impact and be utilized to improve outcomes across an array of health segments including tobacco control, infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, global health security threats such as the Ebola outbreak, the opioid crisis, addiction and other noncommunicable diseases, vaccine and vaccination law and policy, and many more facets of health.
“The rule of law brings stability, safety, and health”, said Gostin, speaking on the importance of global health with justice. In an article in Health Affairs, Gostin discusses the pact of law on health in national and international contexts and how “the report offers a comprehensive roadmap towards realizing the law’s power to make us healthier and safer, describing how principles – like fairness, participation, and wielding evidence – can shape policies throughout government.”
The commission report, published on April 30th, is the product of the expertise and dedication of all 16 Commissioners and the diligence of the authors in supporting the report.
The Institute is indebted to all the participants: without the time, insight, and expertise of Congresswoman Donna Shalala, Anthony Fauci, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, Matthew Kavanagh, Victor Dzau, Bruce Gellin, Regina LaBelle, Jeffrey Crowley, Timothy Westmoreland, and Lindsay Wiley the launch event would not have been possible. Additionally, the Institute would like to thank Georgetown University Law Center and Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative for their support and coordination.