70125 - International Law and Health

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

No poverty Good health and well-being Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student has an in-depth understanding of the relationship between international law and public health. The student becomes familiar with the principal issues of international health law, including the major international health Treaties and governing structures. The focus of the course is especially oriented on international institutions such as: the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the World Trade Organization, the International Labor Organization, and the World Bank; and on the important role that those play in the international health governance and in the development of health regulation and policy. A comprehensive approach to international health law involves multiple, interrelated fields, including trade, economics, intellectual property, human rights, ethics, and national security. Through the unit, the student is trained to identify legal issues and to explore the tension between public goals and private rights and interests, and he/she is expected to apply the law to particular policy contexts and public health issues and to critically evaluate the laws effectiveness in protecting and promoting the public health.

Course contents

Course description

This course provides a critical overview of the contemporary international legal framework concerning the right to health also in light of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. The course will focus on the following issues:

a) Definition, scope and functions of international health law;

b) The right to health as a fundamental human right: special characters and challenges, especially transnational public health, health care privatisation and corruption;

c) The role of governmental and non-governmental organisations in international health governance;

d) European health law, including cross-border health care;

e) Public-Private Partnerships as legal tools whereby to organise and supply health care services


  1. Newdick Christopher, “Global capitalism and the crisis of the public interest – sleepwalking into disaster”, in S. Breau and K. Samuel (eds), "Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law," (2016, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK), pp. 23-45
  2. Meier Benjamin M. & Lawrence O. Gostin, Framing Human Rights in Global Health Governance, in Meier B.M. & L.O. Gostin (eds.), Human Rights in Global Health. Rights-based governance for a Globalizing World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), Ch. 3
  3. Chapman Audrey, “The Impact of Reliance on Private Sector Health Services on the Right to Health”, Health and Human Rights, July 1, 2014, Volume 16, Number 1, pp. 1-14
  4. Fidler David P. & Lawrence O. Gostin, The New International Health Regulations: An Historic Development for International Law and Public Health, Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 34(1): 85-94 (2006)
  5. Fidler David P., The dangerous COVID-19 quest for WHO reform, https://www.afr.com/world/north-america/the-dangerous-covid-19-quest-for-who-reform-20200511-p54rx
  6. Paul E, Brown GW, Ridde V. COVID-19: time for paradigm shift in the nexus between local, national and global health. BMJ Global Health 2020;5:e002622. doi:10.1136/ bmjgh-2020-002622
  7. Santuari Alceste, “Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the provision of health care services to migrants in times of welfare crisis. The EU institutional context and the Italian legal system”, Rivista del Diritto della Sicurezza Sociale, Il Mulino, n. 4/2017, pp. 715-738
  8. Jome K.S., Anis Chowdhury, Krishnan Sharma, Daniel Platz, “Public-Private Partnerships and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Fit for purpose?”, in DESA Working Paper No. 148, February 2016
  9. den Exter André, Santuari Alceste & Tomislav Sokol, One Year after the EU Patient Mobility Directive: A Three-Country Analysis, European Law Review 2: 279-93 (2015)
  10. Greer Scott L. & Hervey Tamara K., Mackenbach Johan P. & Martin McKee, Health law and policy in the European Union, Lancet 381: 1135–44 (2013)
  11. Alceste Santuari, “Legal and organisational innovation in the Italian pharmacy system: commercial vs public interest”, in Health Economics Policy and Law, 2017 Apr 26:1-19

Teaching methods

Lectures and analysis of some Courts' rulings

Assessment methods

The overall assessment will be based on a final written examination, the details of which will be communicated at the beginning of the lectures.

Teaching tools

Teaching materials will be uploaded on the lecturer's website.

Office hours

See the website of Alceste Santuari