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PUBH738 Global Health Law and Global Health Ethics

Developing law for public health in contemporary society; law and non-communicable diseases; impact of globalisation and international law; ethical implications; relationships between global law for health and the environment.

This paper analyses emerging ideas on global public health law and global health ethics and how international law, including international trade law and intellectual property law, impacts on public health. It discusses legal and ethical issues arising from application of public health law to diseases of the 21st century with global dimensions (NCDs, chronic disease); globalisation and communicable disease; global law in relation to health and the environment.

Completion of PUBH737 is strongly recommended, but not mandatory.

Paper title Global Health Law and Global Health Ethics
Paper code PUBH738
Subject Public Health
EFTS 0.125
Points 15 points
Teaching period 1st Non standard period (1 May 2023 - 23 June 2023) (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,509.38
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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Limited to
MA, MHealSc, MPH, DPH, PGDipArts, PGDipHealSc, PGDipPHC, PGCertPH, PGCertPHC

Students who have completed an undergraduate degree in any discipline or recognised equivalent. It is recommended that candidates will have completed PUBH737 Public Health Law and Ethics - Fundamentals however this is not mandatory.


Department of Public Health, Wellington Campus:

Teaching staff

Paper Convenor: Johanna Reidy

Paper Structure

The paper comprises six modules and is internally assessed.


  • Short answer exercise - 10%
  • Essay 1 - 35%
  • Essay 2 - 50%
  • Recognition of participation - 5%

Note: This may change, as assessments will be reviewed in 2022.

Teaching Arrangements

The Distance Learning offering of this paper is a combination of remote and independent study.

Distance taught with weekly or fortnightly Zoom conferences.

Week 1 is made up of two online block sessions, Monday 2 May and Thursday 5 May, 9am-12pm.

Weekly Monday sessions, 4pm - 5pm, Weeks 2-6.


L. O. Gostin: (2014) Global Health Law 2014, Cambridge: Harvard University Press (recommended and available electronically via library).

Course outline
  • Session 1a and 1b. These two block sessions lay a foundation for the rest of the paper and provides an introduction to general concepts of 'global health law': what it is, where it is, and how to understand it. It also covers aspects of global health ethics, ways it might differ from ethical ideas relevant to public health issues nationally and locally.
  • Session 2 builds on session 1, reviewing some of the main World Trade Organization legal frameworks that have implications for public health (eg GATT and TRIPS) as well as trade and investment agreements outside the WTO framework. It will summarise international frameworks relevant to specific health issues (tobacco, alcohol and drugs), outline how New Zealand law addresses those issues, and overview relevant ethical issues.
  • Session 3 expands on the review of GATS with implications for public health; considers international law in relation to several global health issues (gambling, food and nutrition, breast milk substitutes), noting the ethical dimensions of these issues; and summarises relevant New Zealand law.
  • Session 4 focuses on international human rights law and communicable disease in our globalised world, discussing legal frameworks that apply to both communicable diseases and other global health issues, highlighting relevant ethical issues.
  • Session 5 analyses the relationship at the global level between international environmental law and global health. Ethical ideas are fundamental to this theme.
  • Session 6 summarises a range of issues identified in international/global law, with a focus on the implementation mechanisms and incentives that promote efficacy. It reviews possible directions in international/global health law and explores proposals, taking into account global ethical perspectives. It looks at the options for change to international trade and investment law and proposals for international/global law relevant to new health topics.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will:

  • Acquire skills in finding and understanding international law relevant to contemporary public health issues, learning how global law is implemented in national law in NZ and recognising ethical implications.
  • Understand international governance frameworks, in particular international trade law, investment law, intellectual property law, international environmental law, international human rights law, and international health law, and understand how law in NZ currently addresses selected non-communicable disease risk factors and communicable diseases, along with a consideration of ethical implications.
  • Develop ideas for the future in global public health law/ethics, noting national and global legal frameworks and relationships between public health, law and the environment.

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1st Non standard period (1 May 2023 - 23 June 2023)

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system