Ministers of health endorse a new strategy that links health-related law, human rights and public health

Washington, D.C., 30 September 2015 (PAHO/WHO) — Reflecting growing recognition of the role of laws and regulatory frameworks in protecting and promoting public health, health authorities from throughout the Americas today called on the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to help countries expand and strengthen their domestic legal frameworks as they relate to health.

The call for PAHO technical cooperation was part of a new Strategy on Health-Related Law approved this week by PAHO's 54th Directing Council. The strategy builds on the experiences of countries in the Americas in using laws and regulations to promote the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health ("right to health") and the conditions necessary for good health.

Currently, the right to health is enshrined in 20 of 35 constitutions of PAHO Member States. Building on this principle, some countries have introduced legal reforms to promote specific health-related human rights such as access to health services, health insurance, and medical goods and benefits such as vaccines and essential medicines, as well as the right to health and other related human rights in the context of cultural, racial and ethnic diversity, traditional medicine, potable water, sanitation and nutrition.

In addition, many countries in the region have passed laws regulating tobacco sales, marketing and advertising and creating smoke-free spaces, as called for by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the world's first international public health treaty. Countries are also using health-related laws and regulation to require food processors to provide information on the nutritional content of foods and to limit advertising aimed at children.

To strengthen and expand these kinds of efforts, the new strategy calls on PAHO to provide technical advice, as applicable, to countries that request help in using their legislative and regulatory powers effectively and to bring their health-related laws and regulations into line with the highest international standards.

Under the strategy, health authorities themselves committed to:

  • Promote the formulation, implementation, or review of legal and regulatory frameworks addressing health determinants, health promotion throughout the life course, the reduction of risk factors, and disease prevention, as well as the primary health care approach through participatory processes with communities
  • Facilitate information exchange, for example on best practices and judicial decisions, among PAHO Members States and with international organizations.
  • Collaborate on research on health-related law
  • Promote the formulation, implementation, or review of domestic legal and regulatory frameworks to facilitate universal access to health and universal health coverage; to strengthen stewardship and governance in the health sector to advance toward universal access to quality, safe, effective, and affordable medicines and health technologies; and to strengthen the technical capacities of health workers with a view to improving access and quality in health services
  • Strengthen the technical capability of health ministries to coordinate and collaborate with the legislative branch and other sectors, as appropriate, including to identify and review legal gaps and conflicts.
  • The strategy calls on PAHO, upon request of its Member States, to promote and expand these initiatives by providing training, research and technical expertise.

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The PAHO Directing Council brings ministers of health and other high-level delegates from member countries to in Washington, D.C., to discuss and analyze health policy and to set priorities for PAHO technical cooperation programs and regional public health collaboration.

PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.

Links

54th Directing Council
Documents of 54th Directing Council
PAHO Governing Bodies
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