International public health instruments

Douglas Bettcher, Katherine DeLand, Jorgen Schlundt, Fernando González-Martín, Jennifer Bishop, Summer Hamide and Annette Lin

in Oxford Textbook of Public Health

Fifth edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199218707
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199609673 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbooks

International public health instruments

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Norms, standards, agreements, and regulations have been used, since the nineteenth-century International Sanitary Conferences, as governance tools in public health diplomacy. With globalization attaining an unprecedented level at the end of the twentieth century, it appeared that some public goods were increasingly difficult to provide efficiently at the state level. The reason for this is that as states increased their interconnectedness, the interrelation between domestic public goods common to the interacting states also increased. Correlatively, the singular nature of some of what were once solely domestic public goods progressively declined and the creation and maintenance of those public goods became shared enterprises. This led to the emergence of the concept of the global public good (GPG). This chapter examines the ideas of health as a GPG and international law in general, and international health instruments in particular, as intermediate GPGs utilized to protect and promote health. As intermediate GPGs for health, international legal instruments take on an additional layer of importance in global health governance. In providing a robust framework for improving and occasionally even creating health, these instruments are important not only for what they are already doing, but for the potential new instruments that may be developed. Through the presentation of case studies examining three international instruments that the World Health Organization (WHO) has been involved in developing, the chapter focuses on the evolution and implemen tation of emerging, salient international health-specific legal agreements. As WHO continues to grow into its normative role, it is likely that additional opportunities to exercise its constitutional quasi-legislative powers will present themselves. The three examples of intermediate GPGs examined in this chapter have laid a solid foundation on which WHO and its Member States may build, to continue working toward achieving the GPG of health.

Chapter.  15400 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Public Health

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