This post was written by William Thanhauser, O’Neill Institute Research Assistant and Georgetown University Law Center J.D. Candidate ’14. For more information about this post, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, the New York City Council passed a bill raising the minimum age to purchase “cigarettes, tobacco products, or electronic cigarettes” from 18 to 21. New York City Mayor Bloomberg has indicated that he will sign the bill into law; and the bill will take effect 180 days thereafter.
The bill has already sparked sharp debate. Detractors have criticized the measure as being unduly protective of young adults. Conversely, supporters contend that the bill will save both lives and health care costs.
Meanwhile, legislators in some cities have moved to follow New York. Earlier this week, Washington, D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie announced his intent to introduce a similar measure for consideration in the District. And, the head of the Chicago City Council’s Health Committee has also indicated his support for raising the legal purchasing age for tobacco products in Chicago. Given the potential influence the bill may have on municipal tobacco control in the rest of the United States, it is important we understand its context, content, and underlying rationale.
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been subject to frequent criticism for its lax oversight of food safety, and particularly of food additives. However, this morning the agency stepped out ahead of most of its international peers, submitting for public comment a new determination that would effectively remove partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary source of trans fats, from the U.S. food supply.
Trans fats are a particularly harmful type of food additive. Although found naturally in very small amounts, the vast majority of U.S. consumption comes from artificially produced PHOs. There is no safe level of trans fat consumption, and these fats have no apparent nutritional benefit. However, consumption of trans fats causes a great deal of harm, particularly by raising LDL cholesterol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, in the United States, artificial trans fats are responsible for between 10,000 – 20,000 heart attacks and 3,000 – 7,000 deaths from coronary heart disease each year. Read More
If pop culture is anything to go by, then zombies are coming for us. They’ve invaded our television screens, computers, movie theaters and bookstores. Zombies freely walk the streets in countries around the world. Sometimes they even participate in fun runs. There is significant potential for zombieism to run rampant in the US, spread quickly across the globe and evolve into a pandemic of unprecedented death and destruction. Truly, the zombie apocalypse may be nigh.
A pandemic of zombieism presents unique challenges to emergency preparedness, particularly given how little is known about this unique pathogen. The basic facts are obvious – zombies are reanimated undead; “mindless monsters who do not feel pain and who have an immense appetite for human flesh. Their aim is to kill, eat and infect people.” Symptoms of zombieism include slow, shuffling movements, slurred speech and signs of physical decomposition, such as rotting flesh.
Further, we know that zombieism is not air-borne; rather, it is a blood-borne pathogen that is transmitted from person-to-person via “intimate contact,” such as biting. It also exhibits sustained human-to-human transmission – one of the necessary criteria for a disease pandemic. It is highly contagious, and zombies appear to possess an unquenchable desire for “spicy brains” – and also to infect others with the disease. Zombieism demonstrates extreme pathogenecity, with the infected facing a 100% likelihood of fatality and reanimation as a living corpse. Read More
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This post was written by Fernanda Alonso, O’Neill Institute Research Assistant and Georgetown Global Health Law LL.M. Candidate ’14. For more information about this post, please contact email@example.com.
On October 1, enrollment in the insurance market place began. These insurance exchanges are looking to serve as organizations where people can purchase health insurance in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). The ACA sets minimum requirements, providing marketplaces with government-regulated and standardized health care plans for individuals. By creating an economy of scale for insurance, the idea is that prices will be brought down and a wider amount of choice will be given to individuals. Because the exchanges are trying to create competition to bring prices down, making insurance plans affordable, it is of great importance to have people enroll and the online sites up and running. Although people have until February 15 of next year to sign up, this post provides a preliminary overview to the rollout of the exchanges.
The initial experience with the health exchanges has differed enormously depending on whether the exchange has been done through the federal government or if the state is running its own exchange. Almost a month into the process it appears that the state-run exchanges have been significantly more efficient than their federal counterpart, with the federal exchange receiving multiple criticisms.
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On October 24, 2013, the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University and the Lawyers Collective formally launched the Global Health and Human Rights Database. This long-awaited database provides users with free online access to law from around the world on health and human rights, offering an interactive, searchable, and fully indexed website of case law, national constitutions and international instruments.
The launch was formalized with a celebratory event held at UN Headquarters during the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, that brought together speakers working across a number of sectors. The event featured opening remarks by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and Lawyers Collective Project Director Anand Grover and two panels—one on the development of the database and the other of the potential application of the database across sectors.
The first panel outlined the gaps that existed in the field that led both institutions to develop the database, the challenges faced in engaging in this endeavor, the research methodologies adopted, and the visions held by each of the institutions in bringing this database into fruition. The panel was introduced and moderated by Benjamin Mason Meier (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The speakers were Ana Ayala (O’Neill Institute), Brian Citro (University of Chicago Law School and formerly with the Lawyers Collective), and Suzanne Zhou (Lawyers Collective). Read More
Posted in Global Health, Human Rights, Resources; Tagged: Anand Grover, Global Health and Human Rights Database, Gostin, health and human rights, lawyers collective, O'Neill Institute, WHO, World Health Organization.
The Global Health and Human Rights Database is a free online database of law from around the world relating to health and human rights. Developed by the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University and the Lawyers Collective – in collaboration with a worldwide network of partners—including NGOs, academics and private researchers—the database offers an interactive, searchable, and fully indexed website of case law, national constitutions and international instruments.
The database became publicly available in March 2013 and was formally launched on October 24, 2013, with a celebratory event held at UN Headquarters during the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, that brought together speakers working across a number of sectors. More information about the database and the launch event can be found here.
The destigmatization of disease is among the most important public health achievements of the past century, one of the most dramatic examples of which can be seen with HIV and AIDS. In the early days of the epidemic, an HIV-positive status was linked with socially undesirable personal characteristics, e.g. homosexuality or Haitian ancestry, or “deviant” behaviors, e.g. promiscuity or injection drug use. Such stigma not only greatly increased the suffering of people living with HIV (PLHIV) (along with battling the disease itself, they also faced social marginalization and the loss of support networks), it also thwarted public health measures meant to stop the spread of the infection and care for those already ill. In the face of such overwhelming stigma, many chose not to get tested—or treated—for fear of others finding out.
While stigma still remains, civil society groups, joined much later by governments, have successfully reframed HIV and AIDS, empowering PLHIV rather than demeaning them. This is an incredible success story, taking place over just a few decades.
Unfortunately, mental illness has not enjoyed such a rapid destigmatization. Despite several decades of attempts to reframe mental health, those suffering from mental illness are still met with misunderstanding, stigma and fear. A recent front-page story in the Sun, the highest circulation newspaper in Britain, has highlighted the astonishingly high level of discrimination that still exists against the mentally ill. The alarmist headline, which takes up most of the Sun’s front page, decries “1,200 killed by mental patients.” Read More
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A study published in Pediatrics by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH has been in the news (ABC News; Wall Street Journal; New York Times) after they found that 72% of the breast milk samples they purchased online contained infection-causing bacteria. This comes after increased awareness and promotion of the benefits of breastfeeding, including World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and countless numbers of domestic public health officials promoting breastfeeding to improve infant health, which has led to “mommy wars” about breastfeeding versus infant formula. It’s no surprise that the increased pressure to breastfeed has resulted in a market for the sale of breast milk.
O’Neill’s China Health Law Initiative Project enables me to learn from Chinese health professionals and health law lawyers about the dilemmas in practice they face due to lack of clear directives. The scenarios they tell may be a real eye-opener and a good brainteaser for you. Here is the one that impressed me the most from an expert meeting in China that aimed to develop legal guidance for health professionals in a Chinese hospital:
Who owns the amputated leg after a surgery? The patient or the hospital? Does it make a difference if the body part taken out from a surgery is a tooth, a placenta, or a finger? Shall they all be deemed as medical waste that should be managed by health care providers? Or can patients claim the property rights to their body parts?
About a decade ago, a patient took his amputated leg with him after signing a waiver at a hospital located in the downtown area of a big city in China. He changed his mind twenty minutes later and discarded the limb in a nearby trash can. Police stepped in immediately when the limb was found, and eventually tracked it to the hospital after hours of investigation to ensure that no murder had ever happened.
It is not clear whether this case led to the creation of medical waste disposal rules in China. Nowadays, China’s Ministry of Health treats removed body parts as “pathological waste”, a type of medical waste. Under the current medical waste management regulations, hospitals are responsible for collecting medical waste and sending them to a centralized incinerator. Read More
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Do you want to learn more about the LL.M. in Global Health Law at Georgetown Law? Caryn Voland, Director of Graduate Admissions and Tanya Baytor, Director of the Global Health Law LL.M. Program will be hosting an information session on October 30th, 2013 at 12 PM EST. Caryn and Tanya will provide an overview of the application process, curriculum and what it’s like to study Global Health Law at Georgetown Law.
Please click here for details on how to participate.
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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.