Legal regulation is an essential tool for governments to promote healthy diets and physical activity to curb non-communicable diseases, IDLO told participants of a conference organized by the Association of Schools of Public Health in Africa (ASPHA) in conjunction with Makerere University’s School of Public Health.
IDLO’s health law advisor Belice Odamna gave examples of the regulatory and fiscal tools available to governments, such as regulation of marketing to children, better labelling of processed food and beverages, and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.
To build national capacity in public health law, David Patterson, Senior Legal Expert, Health Law at IDLO, urged greater cooperation between law schools and those focusing on public health.
“Today, most legal education does not equip graduates to advise and represent governments on public health issues,” said Mr. Patterson. “Even when public health law is taught in law faculties, collaboration with the school of public health, even in the same university, is often lacking – and vice versa.”
Working together, schools of public health and faculties of law have an important role to play in ensuring the public health workforce is equipped to respond to non-communicable diseases.
To strengthen dialogue, universities are encouraged to incorporate human rights-based courses on public health law in the academic curricula for both law and public health, and to establish interdisciplinary public health law institutes. Regional bodies such as ASPHA can contribute by sharing model curricula and teaching materials.
In collaboration with the World Health Organization and the International Development Research Centre, IDLO is implementing a three-year program to build health law capacity with a focus on healthy diets and physical activity in three East African countries – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – as well as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The ASPHA Conference was held on October 14-16, 2019 in Kampala, Uganda, with a focus on understanding the role of the public health workforce in attaining universal health coverage in Africa.