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Public Health

Law Centre for Health and Life

This research line is primarily focused on the responsibilities and obligations of public authorities to protect and promote the health of the population as a whole. These responsibilities are divided across international, regional, national and local public health authorities. More often than not, public health is highly intertwined with the organisation of health care and the regulation of markets. In view of globalisation, increased governance fragmentation  and a growing complexity of our society, the regulation of public health is posing challenges in two directions: The first direction is how can public health laws and policy, as social determinants of health, improve public health? The other direction asks how do public authorities promote and protect public health in light of health-related fundamental rights and values, such as human dignity, universal access, data protection, the right to self determination, among others? We work on these challenges in the context of these projects: 

  1. Governance of public health crises
  2. Access to medicines
  3. Organisation of healthcare

Societal Impact

This research line informs decision makers and policy advisors to multilateral organisations (i.e. Office of the HIgh Commissioner on Human Rights, World Health Organization), the European Union (i.e. European Commission), and national authorities. 

Links in the UvA community

This research line contributes to two of UvA’s prestigious interfaculty Research Priority Areas: 

This research line also links to the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance in the Amsterdam Law School of the UvA.

  • Public Health Crises

    As we have seen in the corona outbreak, the rapid global spread of serious infectious diseases constitutes a growing risk. The EU has gradually gained greater powers when it comes to tackling such major crises, but the constitutional safeguards within EU law have not kept pace with this growing role for the EU. In health emergencies the power of executive decision makers grows exponentially due to the need for rapid solutions. At the same time, given the sensitivity of the individual rights in the field of health - such as data protection or the right to refuse treatment - these decisions require a fine-tuning of the balance between the protection of the population and the safeguarding of individual rights. 

    In this research on the EU Constitutional Order for Responding to Human Health Disasters, we use qualitative research and legal analyses to come up with legal principles that align with current EU powers, and also with the constitutional orders of the Member States to guide the EU in its response to major outbreaks. We work towards the formulation of guiding principles for both the substantive balancing between the protection of individual rights with the obligation to protect public health. However we also work towards rule of law guidance on the exercise of executive power and discretion at EU level in the field of health.

    Support

    • Dutch Science Foundation (NWO) Veni Talent programme.

    Affiliated researchers

    Dr. mr. A. (Anniek) de Ruijter

    Faculty of Law

    Constitutional and Administrative Law

    Mr. H.B. (Hannah) van Kolfschooten LLM

    Faculty of Law

    Constitutional and Administrative Law

  • Access to Medicines

    Recent events (ex. Coronavirus pandemics, medicines shortages, high medicines prices) pose a danger to public health and threaten the fabric of our social and economic wellbeing. Law and regulation are tools to incentivize the development and production of new medicines, control their safety and price, and ensure they are allocated fairly to all who need them. However, unresolved tensions in trade and pharmaceutical law and governance can lead to profiteering, ‘vaccine nationalism’, and other policy responses.

    This research line aims to improve access to new, safe, and affordable medicines for global health needs. Using the Covid-19 pandemic, antimicrobial resistance, universal health coverage, and other case studies, this research line explores regulatory and governance responses through different legal lenses (ex. human/fundamental rights, public health law, etc.), and makes innovative proposals to address persistent tensions in this field. This research line combines legal, regulatory, and ethical approaches to guide the action of states and the private sector towards equitable development, marketing, procurement, and allocation of medicines.

    One PhD project in this research line is nested in the multidisciplinary Horizon 2020 INDIGO project that aims to develop two influenza vaccine concepts with better efficacy, lower costs and better accessibility than existing alternatives. INDIGO combines the development of two innovative vaccine concepts for the seasonal flu with novel legal and regulatory proposals for vaccine approval and procurement. INDIGO is coordinated by the interdisciplinary research institute, the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD), and it involves public and private R&D organisations in the EU, India and United States. The PhD project examines the potential opportunities and barriers for scaling-up and rolling-out next generation influenza vaccines. The PhD project aims to critically examine the regulatory pathways from development to purchasing and end-user access within EU-India relations.

    Support

    • European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme (H2020-SC1-2019-Single-Stage-RTD, Grant No. 874653)
    • World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (via Medicines Law & Policy)

    Affiliated researchers

    Dr. S.K. (Katrina) Perehudoff

    Faculty of Law

    Constitutional and Administrative Law

    Dr. mr. A. (Anniek) de Ruijter

    Faculty of Law

    Constitutional and Administrative Law

    P. (Pramiti) Parwani

    Faculty of Law

    Constitutional and Administrative Law

  • Organisation of Healthcare

    In the Netherlands the government has a significant role in the regulation of healthcare. The Dutch government fulfils its legal duty to promote public health through various laws governing the health system. Through this legislation Dutch lawmakers must strike a delicate balance to ensure those who need care receive it in line with legal rights and obligations, and within the limits of the available resources. This can be a complex exercise and tensions can arise between the numerous laws and regulations that are specific to different types of healthcare.  

    In this research line we compare laws and regulations from different healthcare segments (ex. the Health Insurance Act, the Social Domain and the Long-term Care Act). This research aims to promote the harmonization of legal themes that play a role in Dutch health care (eg. access to care, freedom of choice, privacy, and professional autonomy). This research also investigates the impact of international law and European law on these themes.

     

    Affiliated researchers

    Mr. dr. W.I. (Wouter) Koelewijn

    Faculty of Law

    Constitutional and Administrative Law

    Mr. B. (Bastiaan) Wallage

    Faculty of Law

    Constitutional and Administrative Law