Global Legal Epidemiology


Global legal epidemiology is the scientific study of international law as a factor in the cause, distribution and promotion of health around the world. New treaties have often been proposed to address many global health issues, including chronic diseases, nutrition, research and development, and healthcare corruption. With so many calls for treaties, it is imperative that a closer look is taken at their overall potential effectiveness and value for the future. We are pioneering new approaches for evaluating existing treaties and informing the design of future international instruments.

WHO Flag  Washington  Empire State Building

What we have done at GSL

 Global calls for international laws governing health and healthcare have been supported by GSL through two key research areas. First, we have conducted systematic reviews to evaluate whether international laws have achieved their objectives and which legal and institutional mechanisms have demonstrated effectiveness in real-world settings. Second, we are pioneering better approaches to evaluating treaties through the use of rigorous quasi-experimental methods. 

What we are currently doing

GSL is evaluating whether and how international laws have positive impacts through a field-wide systematic review and meta-analysis, which will be the first synthesis of all published studies evaluating the effectiveness of treaties governing health, trade, environment, and human rights. We will continually update and continue to analyze this data in order to produce impactful primary evaluations of the use of international law as a global population health intervention. The Lab is also developing a new open-access dataset of global cigarette consumption in support of the world’s first quasi-experimental impact evaluation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). We are also planning to look at regional effects of the FCTC, and further develop this methodology for other sectors.


  1. Hoffman, Steven J., and Røttingen, J.A. (2015) Assessing the Expected Impact of Global Health Treaties: Evidence From 90 Quantitative Evaluations. American Journal of Public Health 105(1): 26–40.
  2. Hoffman, Steven J., Røttingen, J.A., and Julio Frenk (2015) Assessing Proposals for New Global Health Treaties: An Analytic Framework. American Journal of Public Health 105(8): 1523–1530.
  3. Hoffman, S.J., Hughsam, M., Randhawa, H., et al. (2016). International Law’s Effects on Health and its Social Determinants: Protocol for a Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, and Meta-Regression Analysis. Systematic Reviews, 5(64), 1-9.