May 19, 2016

Georgetown's China Health Law Initiative: Promoting U.S.-China Dialogue to Improve Global Health

Founded in 2010, the China Health Law Initiative is a partnership between Georgetown’s O’Neill Institute and Law Asia that fosters U.S.-China dialogue around legal and healthcare issues in an effort to improve global health.

The initiative was created to provide innovative solutions to salient healthcare issues through the exchange of scholars, students, researchers, and academic resources between the United States and China, explained Oscar Cabrera, the executive director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

“We really wanted to establish a mechanism to exchange ideas between U.S.-based institutions and China-based institutions—to open a dialogue on health law issues and use law to improve health in this particular space,” said Cabrera. 

Global Health Collaboration

The health law processes discussed by the initiative include issues of healthcare reform, healthcare for aging populations, food safety, food and drug law, and occupational healthcare.

The initiative’s early work focused on aiding China’s creation of a state-run health system, said James Feinerman, associate dean for transnational programs and co-director of Georgetown's Law Asia.

“[China had] some programs, especially for industrial workers in the cities, where their enterprises essentially funded their healthcare. This [was] an idea to essentially expand that enterprise to a broader health insurance program for a larger swath of the Chinese citizenry,” Feinerman said of the state-run health system. 

Connecting Georgetown to China’s Most Prominent Health Law Institutions

Recently, the initiative has dedicated its attention to fostering the transmission of knowledge and expertise through exchanges of students, researchers, and government officials at Georgetown and prominent Chinese universities, including Tsinghua University, according to Susan Kim, deputy director of the O’Neill Institute.

“Over time I think that relationship has matured, and it is much more of an academic exchange, where folks come here to take our coursework, to be a part of our institute, and to really engage with folks both at Georgetown and in the D.C. community about different topics,” said Kim.

Georgetown has engaged in partnerships and student exchanges with Tsinghua University, a member of the elite C9 League of universities, and the China University of Political Science and Law, as well as other outstanding universities such as Renmin University and Fudan University.

In addition, Georgetown has offered educational programs for the scholars of the Shanghai and Beijing FDAs, so as to provide a window into American health law and share the tools necessary for spurring institutional change in China.

“For us, providing assistance, but also learning from Chinese experience, are the main goals [of the initiative],” added Cabrera. 

Uniting Departments across Georgetown Law

The initiative brings together the regional expertise of Georgetown’s Law Asia and the health law expertise of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law in a collaboration that strengthens the global role of each institution.

“Everything was in that spirit of collaboration and partnership between us, the O’Neill Institute, Georgetown University, Law Asia, and partner institutions in China to strengthen collaboration, to strengthen the relationship, and to do a service to the health reform process,” said Cabrera.