The O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center
Ten years ago, Tim (L’77) and Linda (NHS’77) O’Neill became interested in venture philanthropy, and decided to combine their educational backgrounds in a unique way. The result is the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law. The institute is housed at Georgetown University Law Center, but its scope and impact is truly interdisciplinary, drawing on resources from every part of the university including: the Georgetown University Medical Center; School of Nursing & Health Studies; McCourt School of Public Policy; and Kennedy Institute of Ethics, among many others.
The institute challenges the notion that health is a matter best left to science and medicine and demonstrates that the law is a fundamental and often highly innovative tool to help people around the world live healthier and longer lives. “That was the vision that animated us,” shares Tim O’Neill. “There was an absence of deep academic work in the area and in many cases you really need a legal framework to accomplish things in global health.”
University Professor Lawrence (Larry) Gostin leads the institute. Gostin is a world-renowned expert in global health and the author of five books and more than 100 publications on everything from Ebola and Zika to traffic injuries, chronic disease, and aging. He also serves as director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights.
“People often ask me: ‘How important is law in public health?’ and my answer is ‘law is almost everything,’” explains Gostin. “With evidence-based laws you can create effective environments in which people will behave more healthfully. You don’t have to force people; you just have to give them a little nudge to make it easier to make the right decision. We’ve shown that time and time again with food labeling, mandatory airbags and safety equipment, vaccination requirements, and many other examples.”
In only a decade, the institute has successfully pursued an agenda focused on achieving global health with justice and forged a lead role in:
Advising the White House and Congress about the Affordable Care Act and related legal and constitutional issues.
Using the law to address noncommunicable and often preventable diseases that are the leading causes of morbidity in the world and disproportionately affect low-income people.
Working with the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control to mitigate the spread and impact of epidemics like Zika and Ebola.
“A worldwide pandemic is inevitable and we want to advance preparedness on many fronts. With smart and reasonable investments in preparedness— as well as research and development in public health— you can significantly reduce the risks in the U.S and globally,”says Gostin.
Tim and Linda O’Neill are pleased with their investment over the last decade and recently supported the institute with an additional gift. “Its reputation and impact will continue to grow— its scholarship will continue to expand,” observes Tim O’Neill, “and with the best people, starting with Larry, we know there will continue to be results in an area that needs to have this kind of academic attention.”