The new WHO Health Law Website

20 January 2017

Health laws matter immensely for Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Many countries have made rapid progress towards UHC by using laws to orientate their health systems towards key UHC objectives of equity in service use, quality, and financial protection. Notable examples come from Mexico, Argentina and Turkey. In particular, Turkey used law reform for restructuring its health-care system to advance its UHC goals.

If law and regulation have significant potential to help address UHC objectives, countries that aim for health law reforms are often unsure about how to proceed. They demand for a practical guidance, examples of best practice approaches and information about the experiences of other countries. To address this demand, the World Health Organization (WHO), supported by the European Union-Luxembourg-WHO Universal Health Coverage Partnership (UHC-Partnership), have created a new website where everyone who is interested in UHC law reform can access advice, guidance and information.

The core element of the site is an online health law library. The law library provides access to: general information about law, regulation and legal systems as well as to sources of general information about health law. Moreover, details from one hundred and sixty nine countries experiences are also available. Here details from the countries health laws and legal frameworks are presented and supplemented by specific recommendations and guidelines on health laws use.

“Before we established the site, researching UHC law reform was difficult and time consuming. We wanted to create a far easier way to find and use information about health law” said its creator, David Clarke, a health lawyer from the WHO Health System Governance and Financing department. “In the SDG era, health law reform will increase in importance, making the website a critical resource. SDG 3.8, focused on UHC, will have to be implemented through national laws to address issues of access, cost, and quality. Also, SDG 16, focused on strengthening institutions and transforming domestic decision-making, creates a demand for legal solutions to improve accountability, transparency, legitimacy and participation in the health system” said David.

WHO plans to continuously develop and update the website to make it an authoritative one stop shop where people and countries, researching about health law and regulation, can get all the information they seek for at the same time. On the other side, the website provides a focus for collaborative efforts and encourages contributions to its contents from external fonts. This two-way conversation model is one of the website features. At the moment, the first tool to promote the conversation will be a newsletter. It will provide an initial opportunity to communicate out with the external audience, informing people about stories, actions and event related to health law and UHC. At the same time, for maintaining the dialogue with the audience as wide as possible, new ways to improve communication, as well as getting feedback from users are currently explored.