Welcome Global Health Law LL.M. Students

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"Global Health Law"Today marks the start of classes at Georgetown Law—the classrooms and hallways will once again be filled with students. As the law school welcomes the new class of students, the phrase "we have been waiting for you" found its way in many of the speeches made during orientation. And we have indeed.

For the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, we celebrate this class as the ninth in the history of the Global Health Law LL.M. Program. Our students come from varying backgrounds and levels of experience, and we can proudly say that we have at least one student from each region of the world. For us, this is a tremendous accomplishment.

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Posted in Global Health; Tagged: , , .


“I’d like to see the last Guinea worm die before I do”

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The Carter Center/L. Gubb

The Carter Center/L. Gubb

Former U.S. President, Noble Peace Prize winner and member of The Elders, Jimmy Carter, recently announced he was diagnosed with cancer. We wish him well. During his press conference announcing his diagnosis, he made the following comment when asked about his remaining priorities for the Carter Center:

"I would like to see Guinea worm completely eradicated before I die – I would like the last Guinea worm to die before I do."

Guinea worm is set to become the second human disease to be eradicated, after smallpox. We are so close to eradication that an expert commission advised WHO to prepare a plan for implementing a global reward as soon as transmission is interrupted, as was done with smallpox! Further, in May 2015, health ministers in affected countries reiterated their commitment to interrupting transmission of the disease by the end of 2015. Read More

Posted in Global Health, Human Rights, WHO;


Synthetic drugs: prohibition’s latest creation

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article-2518793-19DEF12F00000578-497_634x482The last months in DC have seen a huge spike in emergency room cases due to overdoses from so-called synthetic drugs. Fire and EMS departments reported 21 cases in August of 2012 and 50 in May 2014. In June of this year that number had risen to 439. This problem is not unique to DC – in the last decade, the DEA has tracked more than 300 types of synthetic drugs, the effects of which aren’t predictable or well understood. Through national emergency-room visits, the accepted metric for drug trends, a record 49 novel compounds were found in 2011.

Based on their chemical make-up these drugs are commonly divided into two categories:

  • Cannabinoids: chemically formulated versions of synthetic marijuana that consist of lab-manufactured THC.
  • Cathinones: also known as “bath salts”, they contain chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cocaine or crystal meth.

Apart from these two distinctions, no one currently really knows what is in the new synthetic drugs that are leading to this increase in hospitalizations. But that is not a problem unique to these substances; it is an intrinsic problem with all illegal drugs. A side effect of prohibition has always been adulteration and intoxication. When driving a drug underground, its production and sale falls into the hands of dodgy enterprises with no quality control standards. Read More

Posted in Uncategorized; Tagged: , , , , , .


“That Sugar Film”: The O’Neill Institute Goes to the Movies

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Photo courtesy of thatsugarmovie.com

Photo courtesy of thatsugarfilm.com

Each summer, staff at the O’Neill Institute gather to informally enjoy and discuss films covering events in public health. This summer, the majority of the movies - Food, Inc.Fed Up and Food Chains - focused on the role that the food industry plays in shaping American eating habits. 

The O'Neill Institute wrapped up its summer movie series with a screening of the recently released That Sugar Film, Damon Gameau’s debut as a feature film-maker. The film documents Damon's shift from a diet free of refined sugars to a diet that involves consuming the average Austrailian’s intake of sugar. For 60 days, Damon consumes 40 teaspoons of sugar each day but does so without drinking any soda or eating any candy. He consumes only foods that are marketed as “healthy,” such as low-fat yogurt, granola bars, juices and cereal, but which in fact are laden with hidden sugars.

The results are staggering. Within just 3 weeks, Damon starts to develop fatty liver disease. And by the end of the experiment he has early Type 2 diabetes, increased heart-disease risks, 11 centimeters of extra girth around his midriff and violent mood swings.

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Posted in Tobacco, Uncategorized, Updates; Tagged: , , , , , , .


Why I oppose Amnesty International’s sex work policy

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Photo courtesy of lawc.on.ca

Photo courtesy of lawc.on.ca

Last week, Amnesty International approved a policy to advocate for the decriminalization of the sex trade worldwide. Some countries such as Sweden, Iceland and Norway have adopted what is known as the Swedish or Nordic model, which makes buying sex, pimping or operating brothels illegal, while protecting women who sell sex. Amnesty’s position is to advocate for decriminalization of both buying and selling of sex, as is the case in the Netherlands. Their position is that decriminalizing all aspects of consensual sex work helps create a legal and regulated market that would protect the rights of sex workers and allow access to services. Sounds simple, right?

If only. This policy has been incredibly controversial and triggered enormous debate, even leading members of Amnesty to quit over the resolution. I was also incredibly disappointed to hear about this decision. Let me explain why.

‘Sex work’ is a choice for the privileged few

Amnesty’s policy only applies to consensual adult sex work “that does not involve coercion, exploitation or abuse”. They seem to be talking about a situation where only fully empowered, consenting women freely choose to sell their bodies for money. The problem is, this nice libertarian ideal of individual choice completely ignores the power dynamics that drive the commercial sex industry. Things like race, poverty, childhood sexual abuse, coercion by pimps and the vast power imbalances between men and women in almost every society.

And we have evidence about how these things play out: studies show that between 65% and 95% of prostitutes were sexually assaulted as children, 95% have experienced sexual harassment that would be legally actionable in other job settings, while 85-95% want to escape prostitution but can’t get out or have no other options for survival. The majority of prostitutes enter the industry before they are 18 years old, and over two thirds have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As pointed by the Guardian,

There is nothing intrinsically repugnant to human rights in sex work if you exclude violence, deceit and the exploitation of children. But these aren’t fringe phenomena. They are central parts of the trade in most places round the world. To take as normative the experience of protected western adults is a morally disabling form of privilege.

One of Amnesty’s main arguments is that it is has carried out extensive consultations and is listening to, and representing the views of sex workers. Deciding which sex workers to listen to is problematic enough, and even more so when your definition of sex worker excludes victims of trafficking, those who have managed to leave and are no longer considered ‘sex workers’ or women who are not in a position to openly discuss their sexual histories in order to have their voices heard.

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Posted in Human Rights; Tagged: , , , .


Remembering Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, the Regulator Who Saved a Generation of American Children

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Photo Courtesy of the National Institutes of Health

Photo Courtesy of the National Institutes of Health

In the late 1950s, a new over-the-counter sedative, thalidomide was introduced in Germany. At the time, it was the only non-barbiturate sedative on the market and it was marketed as an extraordinarily safe sleeping aid. The drug company “advertised their product as ‘completely safe’ for everyone, including mother and child, ‘even during pregnancy,’ as its developers ‘could not find a dose high enough to kill a rat.’” Besides being used as a sedative and sleeping aid, doctors frequently prescribed thalidomide, off-label, for the treatment of morning sickness associated with pregnancy. At its peak, sales of the drug “nearly match[ed] those of aspirin.”

In 1961, Dr. W.G. McBride wrote a letter to The Lancet documenting cases of birth defects associated with the use of the drug. He noted that, while the ordinary rate of congenital defects was 1.5%, he had noticed that the rate among those who used thalidomide was closer to 20%. He queried readers of the medical journal, “Have any of your readers seen similar abnormalities?” This marked the first recognition of the drug’s devastating side effects. Read More

Posted in FDA, National Healthcare; Tagged: , , .


Developing Better Worldwide Solutions to Manage Brucellosis: Good for People, Good for Goats (Animals)

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Photo Courtesy of Sharon Jackson

Goat at US Congressional Cemetery (Photo Courtesy of Sharon Jackson)

This post was written by Sharon Jackson, an independent consultant.  Any questions about the post can be directed to sharonjackson@att.net.

Infectious diseases, especially those that have been controlled in countries with advanced economies but continue to threaten developing countries, pose a particularly difficult challenge in many areas of the world. Zoonotic diseases, infectious illnesses that originate in animals but are also transmissible to humans, are the sources of many infectious disease outbreaks among humans. Brucellosis, a vaccine preventable bacterial zoonotic disease transmitted from animals to humans by consumption of contaminated milk, imposes an immense burden of disease on people in the developing world, particularly in populations who rely on goats as the primary source of dairy products. In many regions of the world, goats are the single most important source of dairy protein. This burden can be reduced by vaccinating animals as appropriate to reduce disease among cows and goats, pasteurizing milk used for human consumption, and improving disease surveillance among milk producing agricultural animals. Governments that take a holistic, “one health” approach to disease control can improve health for both humans and domestic animals and achieve the economic benefits of improved animal productivity and food security as well as labor force participation. Read More

Posted in Uncategorized;


John Oliver: Jon Stewart’s legacy on public health

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Last semester I taught a course on public health law. There was hardly an issue we covered that did not have an astute The Daily Show with Jon Stewart segment to help the students understand not just the health issue, but also its underlying political and legal conditions. Many of the clips are captured here in a tribute to Stewart put together by the American Public Health Association.

While we will miss Jon Stewart, the public health community still has a tremendous ally in Stewart’s protégé, John Oliver.

In his HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Oliver gives significant billing to public health issues that Americans should care about. Oliver has the same knack for exposing the politics, policy and laws that are at the root of so many of America’s public health problems.

And he is really good.

To get you hooked, here are a few links (Sex EdTobaccoSugar) to some of my favorite Last Week Tonight segments detailing public health issues, including a recent segment on Food Waste that if you haven’t seen, you must.

We will miss Jon Stewart. But Oliver is doing an excellent job making sure America’s public health problems, and their underlying causes, remain in the spotlight.

Posted in FCTC, FDA, Global Health, Health reform, Human Rights, National Healthcare, Tobacco; Tagged: , , , , .


How many people lack access to health care? (Hint: More than WHO and the World Bank report)

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Image courtesy of WHO/World Bank.

Image courtesy of WHO/World Bank.

Not long ago, WHO and the World Bank came out of with a report that led to headlines like this one in the New York Times: “400 Million Lack Basic Health Services, Report Finds.” And no wonder these were the type of headlines that emerged. The World Bank’s own press release led with the same 400 million number, announcing “400 million people do not have access to essential health services.”

In a world of more than 1 billion people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 per day) and 2.2 billion living on less than $2 per day (2011 data), that more people do not lack access to essential health services may seem like a remarkable achievement, making health an area where at least many of the world’s poorest, most marginalized people are included in society, able to get the health services to which they have a right. And it would seem that even as the world prepares to establish universal health coverage as one of the targets in the health goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (target 3.8), that 400 million of now more than 7.2 billion people in the world lack access to essential health services would means that about 94% of the world’s population do have access to essential health services.

It turns out, however, that would be a highly over-optimistic misread of what WHO and the World Bank found. By more reasonable understandings of how many people lack access to essential health services, untold hundreds of millions more than 400 million people lack access to essential health services. The road ahead to universal health coverage is considerably longer than the headline figure implies.

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Posted in Global Health, Uncategorized, WHO; Tagged: , , , , , , , , , .


Get Your Free Health Care…. From ISIS

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Courtesy of BBC

Courtesy of BBC

This post was written by Grace Kyallo, a high school student and intern at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. Any questions about the post can be directed to gmk17jcg@yahoo.com.

I could not even make it through the first thirty seconds of the fifteen-minute long propaganda video without cringing. There is a clear disconnect. It is difficult to fathom that this extremist group that encourages and performs beheadings and public executions is willing to provide people within their territory with health care services. Another concerning question is what happened to the existing medical facilities before the establishment of ISIS’s health care? ISIS is notorious for attacking and raiding hospitals such as the incidents in Rabiaa, Latakia, and al Barinas Hospital, all of which resulted in casualties. So, they were either clearing room to establish and operate medical centers of their own or recently realized the need for such services and facilities to establish themselves as a tangible state. Many fail to realize that ISIS cannot operate underground and must hold territory to remain legitimate. This is why ISIS appears so eager to expand its influence and territory past the borders of Iran and Syria. The establishment of a medical center in Raqqa, Syria, only helps to steer them toward this goal.

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Posted in Uncategorized; Tagged: , , .

The views reflected in this blog are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.

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