Advancing the Right to Health — The Vital Role of Law

American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 107, Pp. 1755-1756

Posted: 26 Dec 2017

See all articles by Lawrence O. Gostin

Lawrence O. Gostin

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

Roger Magnusson

The University of Sydney Law School

Ruediger Krech

World Health Organization

David Patterson

Global Health Law Groningen Research Centre

Steven A. Solomon

World Health Organization

Derek Walton

World Health Organization

Gian Luca Burci

University of Geneva - Graduate Institute, Geneva (IHEID)

Katharina Ó Cathaoir

Georgetown University - The O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

Sarah Roache

Georgetown University Law Center

Marie-Paule Kieny

World Health Organization

Date Written: November 1, 2017

Abstract

Soda taxes to promote healthy behavior; labelling to discourage alcohol abuse; litigation to demand access to health services. Drawing on the World Health Organization’s report, Advancing the Right to Health: the vital role of law, this editorial highlights the many ways in which law can support states in realizing the right to health. Law builds public health infrastructure, and can create conditions to promote the public’s health and safety, including establishing health centered tax policy, altering the informational environment to ensure empowered consumers, developing spaces that enable communities to live a healthy life, and safeguarding rights through direct legislation. Where necessary, legal systems can indirectly ensure the right to health through targeted litigation and complaints. Law can also prove a barrier to health where it entrenches discrimination or stigmatization. Dismantling legal barriers to health can be just as important as enacting evidence-based interventions.

While law is a powerful tool, it is most effective in advancing population health as part of an integrated, all-of-government strategy. Furthermore, law requires effective governance, the rule of law, sufficient regulatory capacity, and continuous monitoring and evaluation. Through pursuing greater co-operation and knowledge sharing, law can prove a formidable tool in ensuring the right to health and in achieving the sustainable development goals. We argue for a renewed focus on law to support the mission of public health, strengthen accountability, and leverage results.

Suggested Citation

Gostin, Lawrence O. and Magnusson, Roger and Krech, Ruediger and Patterson, David and Solomon, Steven A. and Walton, Derek and Burci, Gian Luca and Ó Cathaoir, Katharina and Roache, Sarah and Kieny, Marie-Paule, Advancing the Right to Health — The Vital Role of Law (November 1, 2017). American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 107, Pp. 1755-1756, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3091160

Lawrence O. Gostin (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9038 (Phone)
202-662-9055 (Fax)

Roger Magnusson

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Ruediger Krech

World Health Organization ( email )

20 Avenue Appia
Geneva 27, CH-1211
Switzerland

David Patterson

Global Health Law Groningen Research Centre ( email )

9700 AS Groningen
Netherlands

Steven A. Solomon

World Health Organization

20 Avenue Appia
Geneva 27, CH-1211
Switzerland

Derek Walton

World Health Organization

20 Avenue Appia
Geneva 27, CH-1211
Switzerland

Gian Luca Burci

University of Geneva - Graduate Institute, Geneva (IHEID) ( email )

Geneva
Switzerland

Katharina Ó Cathaoir

Georgetown University - The O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Sarah Roache

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Marie-Paule Kieny

World Health Organization

20 Avenue Appia
Geneva 27, CH-1211
Switzerland

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