Is there a role for law(yers) in public health?

ITS not often that speakers forgo the chance to present in favour of opening up debate, but this is exactly what happened here at the World Congress Public Health 2012 (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,Tuesday April 24), in the session “Law: a public health tool”. Moderator, Michele Forzley, chose not to talk on access to medicines in favor of a longer group discussion, following presentations from 3 African speakers on law related to women’s rights, public health emergencies, and setting up NGOs.

Split into small groups,  we, the audience, were asked to identify public health issues which persisted despite knowing the cause and cure, and despite the existence of laws providing protection. The speaker panel then commented on the identified issues, relating them to existing law in their various countries and suggesting why the law had failed to protect.. Michelle Forzley supplied the international perspective. 

Issues identified by the groups related to LMICs (low and middle income countries) and included khat use by young people in Ethiopia; environmental pollution from mining; migrant rights; counterfeit drugs, poor quality breast milk substitutes; training needs of public health workers to enable them to defend and advocate effectively for public health law enforcement; and food labelling/quality, particularly of imported foods.

Continue reading