Pushing AIGHD’s interdisciplinarity one step further; introducing Health Law with Associate Professor. Anniek de Ruijter

A border does not stop disease transmission

“Disease and health risks do not stop at our national borders.” In public health emergencies, whether it’s EBOLA, HIV or COVID-19, policymakers want to act fast to save the life and safeguard the health of the population, but at the same time they must protect the rights of individuals. Anniek de Ruijter, associate professor of Health Law and Policy at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA), was recently appointed as the newest board member at AIGHD. She aims to establish the necessary relationship between health law and projects at AIGHD. “Law is one of the social determinants of Global Health, and it is at the same time a safeguard for ensuring legitimate health policies and interventions.” Health law is a broad term that concerns all law and regulation that governs public health and the health care sector, but it also includes the legal protections that are particularly important in the health context, such as informed consent, access to health care, data protection etc.

Anniek’s education took place in both the Netherlands and the United States. She was always interested in health law, with a particular focus on the EU and international dimensions of this domain. After her BSc in Law, Anniek choose for a 1-year LLM (MSc) in law, where she customized her course package to include a combination of EU law and health law. After her first LLM she received a Fulbright award to pursue her studies at Columbia University School of Law in the United States. After her degree there, she stayed for another year as a research fellow while pursuing her PhD at the UvA Faculty of Law. In her PhD thesis she detailed the “Expansion of EU Power in the Field of Human Health.” After her PhD she became an assistant professor of International and European Law at Maastricht University and of European Studies at the UvA before re-joining the academic staff of the UvA Law School. In 2018 she received a NWO veni Award for her research on EU Constitutional principles for managing major health disasters.

At the UvA, Anniek has taken on a lead role to joining law into the Research Priority Area in Global Health, a cooperative initiative between the faculties of law, medicine, and social sciences that aim to stimulate innovation across disciplines in global health.

Why is Law important in global health?

Global health is a broad field of study that encompasses many facets; law being one of them. Health law is a very recent but very necessary branch to include at AIGHD and we hope to contribute to many projects in the organization. The research and work of AIGHD is always focused on real change on the ground and on impact. In order to achieve this, regulatory opportunities and limitations are very important to keep into consideration.

“For instance, if we look at the work we are doing in the INDIGO project, we need to develop new vaccines and new methods for administering vaccines in cases of pandemic influenza, but we also need to look at potential regulatory barriers and opportunities along the whole line of the supply chain.”

The anti-microbial resistance (AMR) threat is another health risk that is not confined to our national borders. “Here we also need to come up with regulatory and governance innovations to safeguard the use of antibiotics for the future and to ensure access in countries where access is currently limited.

Many scientists tend to have their own discourse but cooperation between disciplines is growing in importance,” Anniek believes AIGHD serves that purpose of gathering researchers and working with NGO’s and private actors to dynamically collaborate and transcend the boundary of discipline. “We need to learn from each other to reach a better result and achieve greater impact.”

We are looking forward to learning from health law in our projects and congratulate Anniek with her new position, welcome on the board!