UPDATE: Research Guide on Global Health Law
By Julienne E. Grant
Julienne E. Grant serves as Reference Librarian/Foreign & International Research Specialist at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library. Her previous publications include contributions to “Research Guide to Mexican Law” (Legal Reference Services Quarterly 35.1 (2016): 18-76) and “Guide to Cuban Law and Legal Research” (International Journal of Legal Information 45.2 (2017): 76-188). She also co-authored a book chapter (with Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns) on the history of Latin American materials in U.S. law libraries (forthcoming, McFarland, 2018). In addition, Ms. Grant is a regular contributor to the DipLawMatic Dialogues blog, which is sponsored by the American Association of Law Libraries’ Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section (FCIL-SIS). She is a member of the FCIL-SIS and served as Chair of its Latin American Law Interest Group from 2013 to 2017. Ms. Grant earned a B.A. magna cum laude in Spanish from Middlebury College, an M.A. in Ibero-American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.A.L.S. from Rosary College (now Dominican University), and a J.D. cum laude from DePaul University.
NOTE: This article is a complete re-write of the original by Chenglin Liu.
Published May/June 2018
(Previously updated by Chenglin Liu in January/February 2010)
Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Introductory Materials
- 3. Electronic Research Guides
- 4. Secondary Sources
- 5. Databases & Websites
- 6. Current Awareness: News Sources & Blogs
- 7. Legal Norms
- 8. International Human Rights, Trade, & Intellectual Property
- 9. International & Regional Organizations
- 10.Institutes, Centers, & Other Initiatives
- 11.Libraries with Noteworthy Collections
The original GlobaLex “Research Guide on International Health Law” (Aug. 2006) described “international health law” as a “new field”. Since that time, however, another term has emerged that is often used interchangeably — “global health law”—although some scholars distinguish between the two. For example, Professor Jennifer Prah Ruger (now at the University of Pennsylvania) views global health law as a much broader field than international health law: “International health law connotes a more traditional approach derived from rules governing relations among nation-states. Global health law, on the other hand, is developing an international structure based on the world as a community, not just a collection of nation-states.”
Professor Lawrence O. Gostin, Director of Georgetown’s O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law, shares Professor Ruger’s view of global health law. According to him, the field is likewise more inclusive than international health law; it extends beyond the relationships between state actors. Global health law, for Professor Gostin, also encompasses the roles of non-state actors (e.g., NGOs), national health legislation, and international legal regimes that interact with public health (e.g., human rights, trade, and intellectual property). The overall goal of global health law, in his view, is to develop an international normative framework that strives for health equity.
This update will accordingly focus on global health law as defined by such scholars as Professors Ruger and Gostin. Included are a wide array of resources, ranging from primary “hard” international law instruments, to databases that contain domestic health-related legislation. Also included are suggestions for researching the relationships between global health law and international human rights, trade, and intellectual property. In terms of format, the guide emphasizes electronic sources, but some print monographs are also mentioned. All of the listed resources are available in English, although several are multilingual. The aggregate purpose of the guide is to provide a comprehensive roadmap for researching the highly complex and dynamic field of global health law.
The following recent publications (2014-2018) serve as general introductions to global (and international) health law.
- Burci, Gian Luca, ed. Global Health Law. 2 vols. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2016.
- Clinton, Chelsea, and Devi Lalita Sridhar. Governing Global Health: Who Runs the World and Why?. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.
- Davies, Sara Ellen, Adam Kamradt-Scott, and Simon Rushton. Disease Diplomacy: International Norms and Global Health Security. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015.
- Freeman, Michael, Sarah Hawkes, and Belinda Bennett, eds. Law and Global Health. Current Legal Issues, vol. 16. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Gostin, Lawrence O. Global Health Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.
- Gostin, Lawrence O., and Devi Sridhar. “Global Health and the Law.” The New England Journal of Medicine 370, no. 18 (2014): 1732-40.
- Gostin, Lawrence O., Mary Clare DeBartolo, and Rebecca Katz. “The Global Health Law Trilogy: Towards a Safer, Healthier, and Fairer World.” The Lancet 390, no. 10,105 (Oct. 21, 2017): 1918-26.
- Toebes, Brigit. “International Health Law: an Emerging Field of Public International Law.” Indian Journal of International Law 55, no. 3 (Sept. 2015): 299-328.
- Vierck, Leonie, Pedro Villarreal, and A. Katarina Weilert, eds. The Governance of Disease Outbreaks: International Health Law: Lessons from the Ebola Crisis and Beyond. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2017.
The research guides listed below, hosted on academic library sites, collectively cover global health law and the related field of global health. Also noteworthy is the annual Guide to International Legal Research (The George Washington International Law Review, LexisNexis), which contains a lengthy chapter on “Public Health” (Ch. 26 in the 2017 edition). The guide is available in Lexis (and in print).
- Global Health (Duke University Libraries)
- Global Health (Northwestern University Libraries)
- Global Health Information & Resources (University of Michigan Library)
- Global Health Law Research (Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library)
- Global Health Law Research Guide (Georgetown University Law Library)
- Public Health Law (Georgia State University Law Library)
Scholarship on global health law is plentiful and continues to evolve. Traditional reference sources in the forms of encyclopedias and handbooks include lengthy entries and chapters of value for researchers. Useful monographs and journal articles, as well as unpublished theses and dissertations, are also available. Various “current awareness” tools, such as online newspapers and blogs, follow developments in global health and its norms. Several excellent commercial and free databases are available to assist with research in this area. Note that secondary sources on “medical law” may also yield relevant information despite their different focus; medical law traditionally pertains to the interactions between doctors and their patients.
The following encyclopedias and handbooks are pertinent to global health law research. Of particular interest is a forthcoming handbook specific to that topic (Toebes and Burci, 2018) (see below).
- Cogan, Jacob Katz, Ian Hurd, and Ian Johnstone, eds. The Oxford Handbook of International Organizations. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. This title provides analyses and commentary on IGOs and NGOs and their relationships with national governments and other international authorities. See the section on “Health” (Gian Luca Burci and Andrew Cassels) for a discussion of the activities of international organizations in the context of global health. The handbook is available in print, as a stand-alone electronic book, and via the Oxford Handbooks Online* database.
- Joly, Yann, and Bartha Maria Knoppers, eds. Routledge Handbook of Medical Law and Ethics. Routledge Handbooks. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2015. Here, scholars explore the intersection of law and ethics as it pertains to the practice of medicine on a global scale. Relevant content includes “The Role of International Organizations in Promoting Legal Norms” (Obijiofor Aginam), “The Law and Ethics of Access to Medicines in Developing Countries” (Paul Ogendi and Peter Munyi), and “The Domestication of Stem Cell Tourism’ (Douglas Sipp). The title is available in print and as an electronic book.
- Nys, Herman, ed. International Encyclopaedia for Medical Law.* Amsterdam: Kluwer Law International, 2002-. Available on the Kluwer Law Online* platform, and in loose-leaf format, this title is part of the larger International Encyclopaedia of Laws series. Both national and international medical laws are explored, and there is a separate monograph on the World Health Organization.
- Quah, Stella R., ed.International Encyclopedia of Public Health. 2nd ed. 7 vols. Kidlington, UK: Elsevier, 2016. This encyclopedia takes an interdisciplinary approach to international public health. Relevant entries include “Global Health Law: International Law and Public Health Policy” (Allyn L. Taylor) and “Health and Human Rights: Overview” (Sofia Gruskin and Daniel Tarantola). The set is available in print and electronically.
- Toebes, Brigit, and Gian Luca Burci, eds. Research Handbook on Global Health Law. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2018 (forthcoming). The book’s editors, Professors Toebes and Burci, are well-known global health law scholars. The title is interdisciplinary in its approach and includes chapters on global health and armed conflict, and the international intellectual property regime as it relates to health issues.
- Wolfrum, Rüdiger, ed.Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law.* New York: Oxford University Press, 2008-. This is one of the most authoritative reference sources in the field of public international law. Examples of content pertaining to global health law are: “Public Health, International Cooperation” (Makane Moïse Mbengue) and “Health, Right to, International Protection” (Eibe Riedel).
Searching on the following Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) in online library catalogs will yield books related to the general topic of global health law. Note that snippets of books are often available in Google Books.
- Globalization—Health aspects
- Medical Laws and Legislation, International
- Public Health—International Cooperation
- Public Health Laws, International
- Right to Health
- World Health
Several English-language law journals focus on global health law. Articles on that topic also appear occasionally in journals that concentrate on health law generally, or on the topic of global health. The following is a selected list of periodicals that cover the field of global health law. Many of the titles are open access.
- Asian Journal of WTO & International Health Law and Policy* (National Taiwan University)
- BMJ Global Health (BMJ Publishing Group)
- Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO)
- European Journal of Health Law* (Brill)
- European Journal of Public Health* (European Public Health Association)
- Global Health Governance (Seton Hall University)
- Global Health: Science and Practice (Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs)
- Global Public Health* (Taylor & Francis)
- Health and Human Rights Journal (Harvard University)
- International Journal of Health Planning and Management* (Wiley)
- International Journal of Health Policy and Management (Kerman University of Medical Sciences)
- Journal of Health Care Law & Policy (University of Maryland)
- The Lancet Global Health (Elsevier)
- Medicine and Law* (World Association for Medical Law)
- The Milbank Quarterly* (Milbank Memorial Fund)
- Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics (Yale University)
Medical journals can also be useful for researching the area of global health law. Examples are the subscription-based New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and The Lancet. Some medical journals are available in full text in interdisciplinary commercial databases like JSTOR. For general guidance on medical research, consult an online electronic guide, such as “A Guide to Health & Medical Research” (University of Denver Libraries). Also noteworthy is Elsevier’s SSRN, which is an excellent resource for locating open-access working drafts and published pieces related to health law and policy in the international sphere.
The following online journal databases and indexes can also help identify and locate relevant articles.
- HeinOnline Law Journal Library* The HeinOnline Law Journal Library contains scanned images of U.S. and some foreign law reviews, generally back to their inception. An index of journal titles is available by country of publication and subject (see “Health and Safety”).
- Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals* (IFLP) IFLP, available electronically through HeinOnline, indexes foreign (including some non-English language) law journals. Journal titles are listed by region and country. IFLP is produced by the American Association of Law Libraries.
- PubMed PubMed is a large collection of medical and health science databases that together include millions of citations to international literature in medicine, nursing, veterinary science, and dentistry. Some records include links to full-text content. PubMed is maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
- Global Index Medicus (GIM) WHO regional office libraries collect and aggregate materials for the GIM database. GIM contains over one million bibliographic records of biomedical and public health literature from and about low- and middle- income countries.
Often overlooked by legal researchers, theses and dissertations contain exhaustive research and extensive bibliographies, and can be useful sources of information on global health law. Along with the Web platforms listed below, many universities post digital copies of their own students’ theses and dissertations.
- DART-Europe E-theses Portal: This open-access portal is a partnership of various European research libraries and library consortia. It provides access to theses from over 600 European universities, representing 28 countries. The database is multilingual.
- Open Access Theses and Dissertations: This is an online collection of open-access theses and dissertations from around the globe. Over 1,000 education and research institutions are represented.
- ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global*: According to the database description, “PQDT Global offers comprehensive historic and ongoing coverage for North American works and significant and growing international coverage from a multiyear program of expanding partnerships with international universities and national associations.” Academic institutions in 88 countries are currently represented.
The following databases and websites are useful for identifying and accessing primary and secondary sources related to global health law, global health, and associated topics.
- Bloomberg BNA Health Law Resource Center*: Although it emphasizes U.S. federal and state law, this platform can be useful for tracking developments in health law at the international level. In addition to current reports and analyses, it offers the full texts of several treatises that include global health law-related topics in their scope.
- Columbia International Affairs Online* (CIAO): CIAO is an international affairs database that includes the full texts of books, policy briefs, conference papers, journal articles, and other secondary materials. It is available via Columbia University Press.
- Global Health*: Produced by the UK-based Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), and available electronically via EBSCO, this database serves as an index to international medical and health scholarship. The resource indexes the content of over 7,000 journals and other specialized materials, with coverage beginning in 1973. Publications collectively represent more than 100 countries, and some content is available in full text.
- Official Document System of the United Nations (ODS): The ODS database contains born-digital UN documents published since 1993 and scanned documents published between 1949 and 1993. The database can be searched by topic (select “Health” or related topics) using the site’s subject index. ODS is maintained by the United Nations’ Office of Information and Communications Technology.
- Summaries of EU Legislation: Public Health: This page provides a descriptive overview of European Union laws and policies related to public health. For a list of EU health legislation in force, see “Directory of EU Legislation: Health Protection.” Both of these sources are part of the massive EUR-Lex site. See also the European Commission’s separate pages on “Public Health” for information on EU health policies and initiatives.
- United Nations iLibrary*: The iLibrary is a relatively new resource that contains over 3,000 digitized books and other materials published by various UN agencies. Users can read the sources online, but a subscription is required to download PDFs. See the “Public Health” theme for health-related materials.
Newspaper and news websites, as well as blogs, can be excellent sources for information on international developments in health law and public health. The following is a list of selected news sources and blogs that cover these topics. Note that a comprehensive collection of links for legal-related blogs is available in JUSTIA’s BlawgSearch; the lists there are organized by practice area, geographic focus, and by law school sponsorship. Try both the “Health Care Law” and “International Law” categories for blogs that may be useful for global health law research.
- FCGH Alliance: The FCGH Alliance is a newly formed NGO created under Swiss law to promote health justice and a proposed Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH). The organization’s website provides updates on global health law in general, as well as the status of the convention. The FCGH Alliance also has an active Twitter account.
- Global Health Law Groningen Blog: This blog is hosted by the Global Health Law Research Centre (GHLG) at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). Most of the authors are associated with GHLG.
- Global Legal Monitor: Compiled by personnel at the Law Library of Congress, the Monitor provides regular e-mail updates on legal developments around the world.
- O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law Blog: The O’Neill Institute is part of the Georgetown University Law Center. Blog contributors include members of the O’Neill Institute’s faculty. To isolate the posts on global health law, select the categories “Global Health,” “Human Rights,” and “WHO.”
A hodgepodge of legal instruments constitutes the framework of the developing field of global health law. These norms encompass both “hard” (binding) and “soft” (non-binding) law and are enacted by state and non-state actors.
The WHO, which is a specialized agency of the United Nations, is the world’s foremost health IGO. Established in 1948, it plays a major role in promulgating health law instruments, which it does primarily through its World Health Assembly (currently, 194 members). More specifically, the Constitution of the WHO provides for the adoption of conventions and agreements (Article 19), regulations (Article 21), and recommendations (Article 23). The WHO, however, lacks the authority to enforce compliance, and this role is left to domestic law and policy.
Although the WHO has tremendous law-making power, it has only negotiated three binding, “hard” law instruments. These are:
- WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC): The FCTC was adopted on May 21, 2003, by the WHO’s World Health Assembly. The agreement calls for the reduction in supply and demand for tobacco products and the sharing of information and resources. The FCTC went into force on February 27, 2005; it has 168 signatories and 181 parties and is now closed for signature. The United States is a signatory, but is currently not a party. A first Protocol to the FCTC was adopted on November 12, 2012, but it requires forty country ratifications by July 8, 2018, to enter into force.
- International Health Regulations (IHR): The current version of the IHR entered into force on June 15, 2007. The regulations require all WHO members to monitor public health within their borders and to notify the WHO if they detect a public health emergency of international concern.
- The Nomenclature Regulations: The Regulations were adopted on May 22, 1967. They require WHO members to use the most current version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) (now in its tenth revision) for mortality and morbidity statistics.
In addition to “hard” law, the WHO enacts “soft” norms, such as recommendations under Article 23 of its constitution. Prominent recommendations include the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (1981), The WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, (2010), and the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework (2011). Other “soft” law WHO instruments are resolutions, decisions, annexes, action plans, and various global strategies. These documents, as well as WHO General Assembly and Executive Board materials, are available on the organization’s website via the main “Governance” tab, or via the WHO’s IRIS database (Institutional Repository for Information Sharing). For more on the WTO and its normative powers, see Chapter 4 (“Fulfilling the Promise of the World Health Organization”) in Professor Lawrence O. Gostin’s Global Health Law (Harvard UP, 2014).
Also, part of the developing global health law framework are norms promulgated outside the WHO context. These include “hard” law international instruments, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976), which guarantees the individual’s right to the highest possible level of physical and mental health. In general, for multilateral treaties that address health and health-related matters, conduct keyword or subject searches in the United Nations Treaty Collection. See also the 2010 version of this guide under “Basic Documents-Treaties of International Health Law” and the Annex in Fact Sheet No. 31 on “The Right to Health” (WHO and OHCHR, 2008).
National health legislation interacts with international instruments to form part of the global health law framework. For guidance on identifying these laws, see GlobaLex’s “UPDATE: Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law” (July/Aug. 2016) authored by Mary Rumsey and Brill Reference’s Foreign Law Guide.* Hein’s Multinational Sources Compared: A Subject and Jurisdiction Index* will lead researchers to sources that analyze foreign health law regimes by country. The Global-Regulation.com* database can be searched to locate the texts of health-related laws and regulations from over ninety jurisdictions. Also useful is the International Labour Organization’s free LEGOSH database, which contains domestic health legislation within the rubric of labor and employment. Additional sources for foreign health legislation (and judgments) are listed below.
- EUR-Lex National Law: The European Union’s enormous EUR-Lex database includes a gateway to search templates for national legislation (N-Lex), national transposition measures, and domestic court opinions. Searches for national legislation can be conducted directly in the target language, or by using a machine translation.
- Global Health and Human Rights Database: This free resource was developed by the Lawyers Collective, the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law, and an international network of NGOs, academic institutions, and private researchers. The database includes national constitutions, as well as domestic judgments related to health and human rights. Searches may be conducted by country, as well as by topic.
- World Legal Information Institute: Health & Medicine: The World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) is a free platform for international and foreign legal research developed and maintained by a group of non-profits. The “Health & Medicine” subtopic offers links to individual country pages that, in turn, list links to various domestic sites pertinent to health and medical law research.
The scope of global health law includes peripheral areas that impact public health, including international human rights, trade, and intellectual property law. The “right to health” itself is a fundamental tenet of human rights law that is articulated in a number of international agreements. For an in-depth discussion of the link between global health and human rights law, see Chapter 8 (“Health and Human Rights”) in the aforementioned title Global Health Law (Harvard UP, 2014). For researching international human rights generally, see the GlobaLex contribution “UPDATE: International Human Rights” (Nov./Dec. 2017).
International trade law and intellectual property law are also closely related to global health. The international trade system, for example, can influence the quality and prices of medicine, and the outcomes of trade disputes can have public health implications. In terms of intellectual property, securing patent protection for life-saving drugs can make those drugs prohibitively expensive for some members of the world’s population. For a thorough overview of the complex relationship between global health law and international trade and intellectual property regimes, see Chapter 9 (“Global Health, International Trade, and Intellectual Property”) in Gosten’s Global Health Law. Also valuable is the GlobaLex contribution “UPDATE: Research Guide on TRIPS and Compulsory Licensing: Access to Innovative Pharmaceuticals for Least Developed Countries” (July/Aug. 2016) and the NYU Law Library’s “WTO/GATT Research” guide.
The websites of various international and regional organizations can be useful for locating general information about global health law, as well as relevant research and policy papers. All of the websites of the organizations listed below include virtual collections of materials.
- Amnesty International: My Body My Rights
- Clinton Foundation: Global Health
- Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières)
- European Association of Health Law
- European Society of International Law (Interest Group on International Health Law)
- FCGH Alliance
- Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
- Global Alliance for Genomics & Health
- Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
- Global Health Council
- Global Lawyers and Physicians
- Healthcare and Life Sciences Law Committee (International Bar Association)
- Human Rights Watch: Health
- IMAXI Cooperative
- International Academy of Law and Mental Health
- International Committee of the Red Cross
- Oxfam International: Health Care
- Pan American Health Organization
- United Nations Foundation: Global Health
- World Association for Medical Law
- World Bank: Health
- World Federation of Public Health Associations
- World Health Organization
- World Health Professions Alliance
Listed below are various initiatives that focus on global health law and/or global health.
- Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy (University of California, Irvine)
- The George Institute for Global Health (Newton NSW, Australia)
- Global Health Initiative (Georgetown University)
- Global Health Justice Partnership (Yale University)
- Global Health Law and Policy Project (Emory University)
- Global Health Law Groningen Research Centre(University of Groningen)
- Harvard FXB Center for Health & Human Rights (Harvard University)
- International Health Governance Project (Max Planck Institute)
- International Institute for Global Health (United Nations University)
- Institute of Global Health (Université de Genève)
- O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law (Georgetown University)
- USC Institute for Global Health (University of Southern California)
- United Nations Global Health Crises Task Force (United Nations)
Along with law school and medical school libraries, a number of special-topic libraries include collections pertinent to global health law research. Below is a short list of these. Note that not all of these libraries are open to the public, but they may provide assistance via telephone or email.
- Dag Hammarskjöld Library (New York, NY and Geneva, Switzerland)
- Law Library of Congress (Washington, DC)
- Peace Palace Library (The Hague, The Netherlands)
- U.S. National Library of Medicine (Bethesda, Maryland)
- World Health Organization Library (Geneva, Switzerland)
 Jennifer Prah Ruger, Normative Foundations of Global Health Law, 96 GEO. L.J. 423, 424 (2008).
 LAWRENCE O. GOSTIN, GLOBAL HEALTH LAW 60, 64 (2014).
 Id. at 60.
 Id. at 59-60.
 See, e.g., MURRAY EARLE, MEDICAL LAW (Law Essentials) 1-2 (2007).
 Lawrence O. Gostin & Devi Sridhar. Global Health and the Law, 370 NEW ENG. J. MED. 1732, 1734 (2014).
 Five more ratifications are needed by July 8, 2018, to meet the threshold of forty countries. See Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Traffic in Tobacco Products, adopted on Nov. 12, 2012 (last visited March 11, 2018).
 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights art. 12, 993 U.N.T.S. 3 (entered into force Jan. 3, 1976).
 For a discussion of the “right to health” as articulated in international “hard” law instruments, see ROGER MAGNUSON ET AL., ADVANCING THE RIGHT TO HEALTH: THE VITAL ROLE OF LAW (2017).
 See GOSTEN, supra note 2, at 270-71, 278-80.
 Id. at 289.