U.S. Congressional Briefing “Cholera and the Human Right to Health in Post-Earthquake Haiti”

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In October of 2010, less than ten months after being hit by a devastating earthquake, Haiti experienced a cholera epidemic that quickly spread throughout the small nation. The waterborne disease has now killed at least 7,050 Haitians and sickened over 531,000 others. Meanwhile, nearly half a million earthquake victims remain without adequate housing, and Haitians continue to face one of the most challenging clean water and sanitation situations in the world. As the rainy season sets in, the country is experiencing a notable increase in the number of deaths attributed to cholera, according to the UN.

On April 18, 2012, the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CESCR) co-sponsored a U.S. Congressional Briefing that examined U.S. and international efforts to address what has become the world’s worst active cholera epidemic. With U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) giving introductory remarks and U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) giving concluding remarks, the panel of speakers was composed of Dr. Luiz Augusto Galvão, Manager of Sustainable Development and Environmental Health Area at the Pan-American Health Organization/World Health Organization; Donna Barry, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Partners In Health; Brian Concannon, Jr., Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti; Mario López-Garelli, Senior Human Rights Specialist at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Inter-American Commission); and Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of CESCR. The briefing was organized and moderated by J.P. Shuster, research associate at the O’Neill Institute. The group of panelists discussed urgent measures needed to contain the spread of the disease and the longer-term proposals for preventing cholera from becoming endemic to Haiti, as well as the role of international legal mechanisms for protecting health and human rights violations in Haiti’s greater post-earthquake context.

Click here to watch the briefing

Public Health Perspective

Donna Barry set the context of the discussion by recalling that health and water are basic human rights and that it is the government’s responsibility to provide access to both, which is why Partners In Health’s work in focuses on strengthening government systems. Barry emphasized the importance of recognizing that, prior to the earthquake, Haiti had the worst health indicators and worst access to clean water in the Western Hemisphere and had one of the world’s worst sanitation systems. Barry also highlighted Partners in Health’s recently launched Haiti Cholera Vaccine Project. The project aims to reduce incidence of disease and transmission and starts with the vaccination of 50,000 individuals in a rural community in Saint-Marc. The vaccination project is intended as a complementary measure to prevention and treatment efforts and is part of Partners in Health’s recommended five-point comprehensive response to combat cholera in Haiti: 1) strengthen water and sanitation infrastructure; 2) identify and treat all those with cholera symptoms; 3) role out a safe, affordable, and effective cholera vaccine; 4) strengthen Haiti’s public health system; and 5) improve effectiveness of foreign assistance to Haiti. Read More

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


Australian Attorney-General to Present “Why Are Plain Packs Making Big Tobacco So Angry? Australia’s World Leading Work to Combat Smoking”

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The Honorable Nicola Roxon, Attorney-General of Australia to present, “Why Are Plain Packs Making Big Tobacco So Angry? Australia’s World Leading Work to Combat Smoking” on Thursday, May 17, 2012, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. at Georgetown Law, 600 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington DC (Hotung Building Room 2000). 

The Issue in Brief: From December 2012, Australian law will require that tobacco products sold in Australia be sold in plain packaging. The law reduces branding on product packaging to the display of brand and variant names in standardized font styles and sizes, with the remainder of a pack’s surface to be taken up by health warnings and a plain background. Tobacco companies have challenged the law under the Australian constitution and under a bilateral investment treaty. Claims have also been initiated at the World Trade Organization.

Biography: The Honorable Nicola Roxon is the Attorney-General in the Australian Government. She has been a member of Federal Parliament since 1998 representing the western suburbs seat of Gellibrand in Melbourne. As the Minister for Health and Ageing from 2007 to 2011, Ms. Roxon undertook major reforms to Australia’s public hospital, primary care and preventative health systems. In 2011, Ms. Roxon was awarded the World Health Organization Director-General’s Special Recognition Certificate for her accomplishments in tobacco control. In 2011 she was appointed Australia’s first female Attorney-General and in March 2012 given the additional portfolio responsibility of Minister for Emergency Management. Ms. Roxon is an honors law graduate, who worked as an industrial lawyer, union organizer and judge’s associate to Justice Mary Gaudron in the High Court of Australia prior to her election to parliament. Ms. Roxon is married with one child.

For more information, please visit www.oneillinstitute.org

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Coverage of the WTO Appellate Body Report, US – Clove Cigarettes

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Yesterday, the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization handed down its report in United States – Clove Cigarettes. The Appellate Body upheld the first instance finding that US restrictions on clove (but not menthol) cigarettes are discriminatory and, therefore, contrary to WTO law.

In the near future, the O’Neill Institute will distribute a briefing paper examining the implications of this decision for tobacco control and domestic regulatory autonomy. In the meantime, first impressions and other thoughts are on our new trade, investment and health blog

Posted in Uncategorized;


Three Ominous Moments During the Affordable Care Act Severability Hearing – Could They Actually Save the Mandate?

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This post was written by former O’Neill Institute Research Assistant and current Georgetown Law 2L Dinesh Kumar, who attended day three’s morning session of the Supreme Court’s hearing on the Affordable Care Act.

Every aspect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Supreme Court oral arguments has been dissected in the days following the historic hearings, including the “severability” issue (dealing with the question of what, if any, provisions of the law are valid if the Court finds the “individual mandate” to purchase insurance to be unconstitutional).  Professor Lawrence Gostin of the O’Neill Institute at Georgetown Law also gave his comprehensive take on the previous day’s individual mandate hearing here.  As I reviewed the many perceptive blog posts reacting to the severability argument (good examples of which are here, here, and here), I wondered what I could add from the perspective of a law student lucky enough to score a seat inside the courtroom.  As a supporter of the mandate – on constitutional, economic, and public health grounds – I’ll briefly highlight three aspects of the proceedings I found troubling.

 Justice Kennedy and judicial “restraint”

Severability has always been a concept tied to the ideal of judicial restraint ever since Chief Justice Marshall implored following Marbury v. Madison that while a provision deemed unconstitutional must fall, all other parts of a law should be given “full effect” as long as they are “not repugnant to the Constitution.” Several justices urged restraint on the part of the Court during the severability hearing; Justice Ginsburg called a “salvage job” preferable to a “wrecking operation,” and others repeated that a “half a loaf of bread” was better than no loaf at all.  But at one point Justice Kennedy, whose vote will perhaps decide the case, echoed a paradoxical notion of “restraint” put forth by Justice Scalia: That striking down the entire law would actually show more restraint than allowing some portion to stand while killing the mandate.  If Congress were allowed to start anew rather than being returned a law that spoiled its intended effect on the insurance industry, his thinking went, the Court would at once be deferential to Congress and true to its own constitutional ideals.  Justice Kennedy’s definition of restraint displays a kind of logic that makes it unclear whether he believes the most restrained thing to do would be to uphold or strike down the entire law.  Read More

Posted in Health reform, National Healthcare; Tagged: , , , , .


HHS Releases Final Rules that Apply Affordable Care Act Provisions to College Health Plans

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This post was authored by Rory O’Sullivan, Policy Director, from the Young Invincibles

The Department of Health and Human Services recently released final rules that apply the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) consumer protections to college health plans starting in Fall 2012. College students will now receive the same basic consumer protections and benefits as all Americans.  

Historically, student health plans have exhibited many of the worst practices in the health insurance industry. Some plans cover no more than $1,500 a year in benefits.  Others have medical loss ratios as low as 35%, meaning they spend only 35 cents of every dollar in premiums on actual medical care, with the rest going toward administrative expenses and profits. As a result, profit margins on certain college health plans reach 5 times the industry average.  Read More

Posted in Health reform, National Healthcare, Uncategorized; Tagged: , , , , .


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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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