course ID: 2.4

Better Health Faster: Using Law and Policy Effectively in Public Health


The aim is to provide participants with the tools they need to 1) mobilize public health law-related knowledge and capacity within their organizations, 2) use and assess law and policy effectively through multidisciplinary team work within their organizations; 3) use and assess the role of human rights norms related to the rights to health and accountability mechanisms in advancing public health goals.

It provides an introduction to transdisciplinary public health law and legal epidemiology; developing legal solutions to public health law problems; using the Five Essential Public Health Law Services Framework in planning and evaluating legal interventions. Introduction to international human rights law and health; and mechanisms to operationalize such standards at UN, regional and national level.

The “transdisciplinary model” unites two traditions of law-related work in public health:

  • “Public health law practice”: the traditionally recognized lawyerly functions of normative and doctrinal research, counseling, and representation, which continue to be crucial to the effective operation of health organizations and systems; and
  • “Legal epidemiology”: the legal work that public health professionals have done for decades without necessarily thinking of it as legal, including policy development, building support for new policies, enforcement, and monitoring and evaluation of legal interventions and the impact of laws on health.[1]

Drawing upon the transdisciplinary model, and analyzing the most successful public health campaigns of the past five decades, we and our colleagues have defined five essential health law services required to move from the problem-definition phase of public health policy work to widespread adoption of evidence-based strategies that create lasting change and achieve health equity.

Each link in the chain represents a distinct domain of scientific, legal or advocacy work necessary for the timely adoption and diffusion of effective legal health interventions. These essential services are not all purely legal, nor are they provided only by lawyers. Instead, researchers and scientists; government officials and practitioners; youth and young adults; business, community, faith and any variety of other leaders may all be involved in any given activity. This endeavor is cross–sectorial as well; the transdisciplinary teams must include those with expertise, methods, tools and perspectives from non-health sectors that impact health.

The workshop participants will use the five essential public health law services framework to assess the overall legal infrastructure supporting the work their organizations does with its allies, and to develop strategies for strengthening legal infrastructure within their topical domains. Thus the workshop will raise the awareness of the participants on the potential of the law as a vital element of public health practice and help them see how to make better use of it within, and for the benefit of, their organizations and constituents, both in terms of governance and strategy. The workshop will teach how to translate more efficiently and systematically evidence based policies into practice, in other words how better concretizing the latest understanding we have on the connection between law and science in public health.


At the end of the course participants will:

  • should have a strong grasp of the latest knowledge in public health law research,
  • be able to put this knowledge into practice especially in terms of governance, policy-making, policy implementation and evaluation within their organizations and research.
  • Ultimately they should have a reinforced capacity to work in multidisciplinary teams to enhance the effective use of law and policy solutions in their public health work.


Basic knowledge and experience in a medical or public health field. Interest for prevention and control of NCDs in low and middle income countries (although the issues discussed in the course are also fully relevant to high income countries). The course can also be of interest for persons involved in development programs in low and middle income countries that have a health component.

Dominique Sprumont


Professor of Health Law, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Scott Burris


Professor of Law and Public Health, Temple University (USA)

Luisa Cabal


 Chief, Human Rights and Law, UNAIDS (Colombia)