Advertisement

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 245–255 | Cite as

International public health law: not so much WHO as why, and not enough WHO and why not?

  • Shawn H. E. Harmon
Scientific Contribution

Abstract

To state the obvious, “health matters”, but health (or its equitable enjoyment) is neither simple nor easy. Public health in particular, which encompasses a broad collection of complex and multidisciplinary activities which are critical to the wellbeing and security of individuals, populations and nations, is a difficult milieu to master effectively. In fact, despite the vital importance of public health, there is a relative dearth of ethico-legal norms tailored for, and directed at, the public health sector, particularly at the international level. This is a state of affairs which is no longer tenable in the global environment. This article argues that public health promotion is a moral duty, and that international actors are key stakeholders upon whom this duty falls. In particular, the World Health Organization bears a heavy responsibility in this regard. The article claims that better health can and must be better promoted through a more robust interpretation of the WHO’s role, arguing that neither the WHO nor international law have yet played their necessary part in promoting health for all.

Keywords

International public health World Health Organization Regulation Law-making Ethics Values Norms 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author would like to acknowledge the valuable contribution of Dr. Graeme Laurie, Professor of Medical Jurisprudence, University of Edinburgh, and Director, AHRC SCRIPT, as well as the anonymous reviewers.

References

  1. Arai-Takahashi, Y. 2001. The role of international health law and the WHO in the regulation of public health. In Law and the public dimension of health, ed. R. Martin and L. Johnson. London: Cavendish.Google Scholar
  2. Benatar, S. 2001. Distributive justice and clinical trials in the third world. Theoretical Medicine 22: 169–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benatar, S., A. Daar, and P. Singer. 2003. Global health ethics: The rationale for mutual caring. International Affairs 79: 107–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bettcher, D., and K. Lee. 2002. Globalisation and public health. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 56: 8–17.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bhan, A., et al. 2007. Grand challenges in global health: Engaging civil society organizations in biomedical research in developing countries. PLoS Medicine 4: 1456–1459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brandt, W. 1981. North-South: A programme for survival—report of the independent commission on international development issues. London: Pan Books.Google Scholar
  7. Braveman, P., and S. Gruskin. 2003. Poverty, equity, human rights and health. WHO Bulletin 81: 539–545.Google Scholar
  8. Burgess, A. 2006. The making of the risk-centred society and the limits of social risk research. Health Risk & Society 8: 329–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Butler, C. 2000. Inequality, global change and the sustainability of civilisation. Global Change & Human Health 1: 156–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Checa, N., et al. 2003. The new world disorder. Harvard Business Review 81: 70–79.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarke, M. 2001. War in the new international order. International Affairs 77: 663–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Codex Secretariat. 2006. Understanding the codex alimentarius, 3rd ed. Rome: FAO. ftp://ftp.fao.org/codex/Publications/understanding/Understanding_EN.pdf.
  13. Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights. 2000. General Comment 14: The right to the highest attainable standard of health. UN Doc E/C.12/2000/4, 11 August 2000. http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(symbol)/E.C.12.2000.4.En.
  14. Daniels, N. 2008. Just health: A population view. Cambridge: CUP.Google Scholar
  15. Daynard, R. 2003. Why tobacco litigation? British Medical Journal 12: 1–2.Google Scholar
  16. Drager, N., and C. Vieira, eds. 2002. Trade in health services: Global, regional and country perspectives. Washington: Pan American Health Organization.Google Scholar
  17. Dute, J. 2005. World Health Organization: Revision of the international health regulations. European Journal of Health Law 12: 269–271.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Editors. 2004. Ratification of tobacco treaty needed now. Lancet 364: 1191–1192.Google Scholar
  19. Falk, R. 1999. Predatory globalization: A critique. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  20. Fidler, D. 1997. The globalization of public health: Emerging infectious diseases and international relations. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 5: 11.Google Scholar
  21. Fidler, D. 1998. The future of the World Health Organization: What role for international law? Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 31: 1079–1126.Google Scholar
  22. Fidler, D. 2007. Architecture amidst anarchy: Global health’s quest for governance. Global Health Governance 1. http://diplomacy.shu.edu/academics/global_health/journal/PDF/Fidler-article.pdf.
  23. Frieden, T., and M. Bloomberg. 2007. How to prevent 100 million deaths from tobacco. Lancet 369: 1758–1761.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Garrett, L. 1994. The coming plague newly emerging diseases in a world out of balance. NY: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.Google Scholar
  25. Gostin, L. 2007. Meeting the survival needs of the world’s least healthy people: A proposed model for global health governance. Journal of the American Medical Association 298: 225–228.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gostin, L., and A. Taylor. 2008. Global health law: A definition and grand challenges. Public Health Ethics 1: 53–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gostin, L., et al. 2008. Meeting basic survival needs of the world’s least healthy people: Toward a framework convention on global health. Georgetown Law Journal 96: 331–392.Google Scholar
  28. Gwatkin, D. 2000. Health inequalities and the health of the poor: What do we know? What can we do? WHO Bulletin 78: 3–18.Google Scholar
  29. Harmon, S. 2005. The significance of UNESCO’s universal declaration on the human genome and human rights. SCRIPTed 2 (1): 20–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harmon, S. 2006. Solidarity: A (new) ethic for global health policy. Health Care Analysis 14: 215–236.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kant, I. 1785. Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals (edited and trans: Paton, H. 1964). Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals, 3rd ed. London: Hutchinson & Co.Google Scholar
  32. Kennedy, B., et al. 1998. The role of social capital in the Russian mortality crisis. World Development 26: 2029–2043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Labonte, R. 2003. From the global market to the global village: ‘Free’ trade, health and the World Trade Organization. Promotion of Education 10: 1–5.Google Scholar
  34. Lopez, A., et al. 2001. Global and regional burden of disease and risk factors 2001: Systematic analysis of population health data. Lancet 367: 1747–1757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Magnusson, R. 2007. Non-communicable diseases and global health governance: Enhancing global processes to improve health development. Globalisation and Health 3: 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Martyn, R. 2006. The exercise of public health powers in cases of infectious disease: Human rights implications. Medical Law Review 14: 132–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McKibben, W. 2003. Enough. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  38. McMichael, A., and C. Butler. 2006. Emerging health issues: The widening challenge for population health promotion. Health Promotion International 21: 15–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. National Intelligence Council. 2000. The global infectious disease threat and its implications for the United States, NIE 99–17D. http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/nie99-17d.htm. Accessed 6 May 2008.
  40. Nussbaum, M. 1992. Human functioning and social justice: In defense of Aristotelian essentialism. Political Theory 20: 202–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Parry, K., et al. 2004. Effects of climate change on global food production under SRES emissions and socio-economic scenarios. Global Environmental Change 14: 53–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Polansky, L. 2000. The ramifications of population. ZPG Reporter 32: 5–13.Google Scholar
  43. Raskin, P., et al. 2002. Great transition: The promise and lure of the times ahead. Boston: Stockholm Environment Institute.Google Scholar
  44. Ruger, J. 2006. Ethics and governance of global health inequalities. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 60: 998–1003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ruggie, R. 1995. At home abroad—abroad at home—international liberalisation and domestic stability in the new world economy. Mill Journal of International Studies 24: 447–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shaffer, E., et al. 2005. Global trade and public health. American Journal of Public Health 95: 23–34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sen, A. 1999. Development as freedom. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  48. Singh, S., et al. 2007. Conflict and health: A paradigm shift in global health and human rights. Conflict and Health 1: 1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Strong, M., et al. 1996. Connecting with the world: Priorities for Canadian internationalism in the 21st century. Ottawa: IDRC.Google Scholar
  50. Stuart, S. 2000. Species: Unprecedented extinction rate and it’s increasing, IUCN special feature. www.iucn.org/info_and_news/press/species2000.html. Accessed 16 August 2005.
  51. Taylor, A. 1992. Making the World Health Organization work: A legal framework for universal access to the conditions for health. American Journal of Law and Medicine 18: 301–346.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Taylor, A. 2002. Global governance, international health law and WHO: Looking towards the future. WHO Bulletin 80: 975–980.Google Scholar
  53. Taylor, A., and D. Bettcher. 2000. WHO framework convention on tobacco control: A global ‘good’ for public health. WHO Bulletin 78: 920–929.Google Scholar
  54. Taylor, A., and J. Lariviere. 2005. Origins of the WHO framework convention on tobacco control. America Journal of Public Health 95: 936–938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. The Royal Society. 2006. Pandemic influenza: Science to policy. http://royalsociety.org/displaypagedoc.asp?id=22903. Accessed 10 June 2008.
  56. UN Development Programme. 1999. Human development report 1999. http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/1999/en/. Accessed 17 August 2005.
  57. UN General Assembly Consumer Protection Resolution. A/RES/39/248, 16 April 1985. http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/39/a39r248.htm.
  58. UNESCO. 2005. Explanatory memorandum on the elaboration of the preliminary draft declaration on universal norms on bioethics. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001390/139024e.pdf. Accessed 10 June 2008.
  59. Varmus, H., et al. 2003. Grand challenges in global health. Science 302: 398–399.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vetter, N. 2003. Values in the NHS. Journal of Pub Health Medicine 25: 1–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wallach, L. 2002. Accountable governance in the era of globalization: The WTO, NAFTA and international harmonization of standards. 50 University of Kansas Law Review 50: 823–865.Google Scholar
  62. WHO. 1990. History of the international classification of diseases. http://www.who.int/classifications/icd/en/HistoryOfICD.pdf.
  63. WHO. 2003. The world health report 2003. Geneva: WHO Publications.Google Scholar
  64. WHO. 2005. World health report 2005. Geneva: WHO Publications.Google Scholar
  65. WHO. 2006. Engaging for health: 11th general programme of work 2006–2015—A global health agenda. http://libdoc.who.int/publications/2006/GPW_eng.pdf. Accessed 17 January 2008.
  66. WHO. 2007. The world health report 2007: A safer future—global public health security in the 21st century. http://www.who.int/whr/2007/en/index.html. Accessed 10 January 2008.
  67. WHO Agenda. 2008. http://www.who.int/about/agenda/en/index.html. Accessed 17 January 2008.
  68. WHO Working Group Two. 2006. Draft paper: Ethics of public health measures in response to pandemic influenza. http://www.who.int/eth/ethics/PI_Ethics_draft_paper_WG2_6_Oct_06.pdf. Accessed 10 June 2008.
  69. WHO/WTO. 2002. WTO Agreements and public health: A joint study by the WHO and WTO secretariat. http://www.who.int/media/homepage/en/who_wto_e.pdf. Accessed 24 November 2008.
  70. Yach, D., and D. Bettcher. 1998. The globalization of public health II: The convergence of self-interest and altruism. American Journal of Public Health 88: 738–741.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ESRC InnoGen and AHRC SCRIPTUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghScotland, UK

Personalised recommendations