[Skip to Navigation]
Sign In
Health Law and Ethics
June 2, 2004

International Infectious Disease Law: Revision of the World Health Organization's International Health Regulations

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: The Center for Law and the Public's Health, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, and the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.


Health Law and Ethics Section Editors: Lawrence O. Gostin, JD, Center for Law and the Public's Health at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, and the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md; Helene M. Cole, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2004;291(21):2623-2627. doi:10.1001/jama.291.21.2623

The International Health Regulations (IHR), the only global regulations for infectious disease control, have not been significantly changed since they were first issued in 1951. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently engaged in a process to modernize the IHR. This article reviews WHO's draft revised IHR and recommends new reforms to improve global health, which include (1) a robust mission, emphasizing the WHO's core public health purposes, functions, and essential services; (2) broad scope, flexibly covering diverse health threats; (3) global surveillance, developing informational networks of official and unofficial data sources; (4) national public health systems, setting performance criteria, measuring outcomes, and holding states accountable; (5) human rights protection, setting science-based standards and fair procedures; and (6) good governance, adopting the principles of fairness, objectivity, and transparency. The WHO should ensure state compliance with health norms and generous economic and technical assistance to poorer countries. An important issue for the international community is how sovereign countries can join together to make global health work for everyone, the poor and the wealthy alike.

Add or change institution