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Addressing Global Health Challenges

This course explores major global health challenges and the concepts of health laws and human rights as applicable to global health. Students are introduced to current and emerging global health priorities and analyze possible solutions through the reform of health-related laws as a component of health systems.  The course also explores the links between human rights and public health policy. Classroom presentations examine how international law (including international human rights norms and standards) can be an important tool for formulating and reviewing health-related laws and addressing: current global health challenges and emergencies, improving mental health systems and their response, creating smoke free environments, reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, reducing maternal mortality and protecting older persons and other groups in situations of vulnerability during health emergencies and pandemics.

Classroom discussions include guest speakers such as UN experts, UN Special Envoys, WHO advisors, international law and human rights practitioners from regional human rights organs and litigators.  Students engage in conversations and cutting-edge research on current global health challenges and the law, the role of social determinants of health and vulnerable groups in the context of COVID-19 and the theoretical and practical tensions between the goals of human rights protection and public health programs.

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Adjunct Associate Professor Javier Vasquez, former PAHO/WHO Human Rights Advisor and Vice-President of Health Programs with Special Olympics and current Senior Advisor to the UN Special Envoy on Disability, bring to the classroom, 20 years of practical experience visiting health systems in 44 countries, enabling students to work together in evaluating and analyzing health-related laws and human rights issues from a global, legal and practical perspective. Students’ abilities to develop original presentations, concept papers and engage in critical thinking on global health law and human rights have produced conferences, papers and webinars in critical global health law issues such as mental health, disabilities in the African Region, health technologies in the context of health emergencies, bioterrorism, maternal health, the right to receive health information, tobacco control and euthanasia in the context of international standards on healthy ageing, among others.  For example, students and alumni guided by faculty, advisors from international organizations and UN Special Envoys’ offices have organized conferences, webinars and published papers on global health law issues in the WCL Health Law and Policy Brief in close collaboration with the Health Law and Policy Program and the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law:

https://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/hlp/vol6/iss2/

http://www.healthlawpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/HLPB-Volume-15-Issue-1-.pdf

https://www.ceeol.com/search/article-detail?id=932052

https://www.wcl.american.edu/news-events/events/detail/8773/