Health and Human Rights

Health Law

Appropriate legislation is fundamental to improving public health. At the national level countries continuously need to review and update health legislation to:

  • protect and promote the health of their populations;
  • sustain their health policies and programmes;
  • prevent ill health resulting from unsafe products and unsafe living conditions;
  • fight new and re-emerging communicable diseases;
  • support the development of health systems;
  • combat continuing poverty, inequities in health and discrimination.

At the international level:

  • contemporary global health challenges reveal our inter-dependence, and demand collective consensus and collective action;
  • national and international health laws are mutually supportive, and are vital to protect and promote health; and
  • the importance of health legislation is reflected in many national Constitutions and in the WHO Constitution.

Our constitutional basis:

  • Under Article 63 of the WHO Constitution: each Member State is required to "communicate promptly to the Organization important laws, regulations...pertaining to health which have been published in the State concerned".

The Health Law team was established in 1948 and the first issue of the International Digest of Health Legislation (IDHL) and the Recueil international de Législation sanitaire (R.I.L.S.) appeared that same year.

Orientations of the Health Law team have been deliberated upon by the WHA/EB in several supportive resolutions over the years. Under this constitutional responsibility, WHO has operated a vigorous programme of technical cooperation and information transfer for more than 60 years.