Developing the Justice Programme of the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health


The aim of this research stay is to define the role of applicant Prof Toebes in the newly established Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health (AJSPH) of the University of Groningen/University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), which was established in March 2018. Together with health economist dr Viola Angelini, Toebes is responsible for the Justice Programme, which forms one of the foundational pillars of the School.The main rationale for the Health Justice Programme is the existence of large socio-economic health inequalities, both within and between countries. While Angelini’s role is to provide evidence on the pathways to these inequalities, Toebes’ role is to explore the role that law and human rights can play in reducing these inequalities. Given the recent establishment of the School, this collaboration is still in its infancy.
For the further definition of this role, Toebes aims to identify the nature and scope of ‘public health law’ as a sub-discipline of health law that is undeveloped in the Netherlands. Public health law as a transdisciplinary discipline is concerned with a study of the legal powers and duties of the state to assure the conditions for people to be healthy and the limitations on the power of the state to constrain values including their autonomy, privacy, and freedom of movement (Gostin and Wiley, 2016).
Globally, guest researcher Prof Scott Burris (Temple University, US), is one of the most experienced and established legal researchers in public health law. He has done extensive public health law development work and he is the premier methodologist in the emerging field of legal epidemiology. As Director of the Public Health Law Research Program (PHLR) at Temple University (US), Burris is the author of many publications in the field, including an authoritative handbook on public health law research (Wagenaar & Burris, 2013).
The envisaged research visit will enable the host researcher to learn about and adapt research approaches that have proven useful in the U.S. for the Dutch and European setting. The three-month workplan is designed to allow the researchers to consider three foundational questions for the future of legal epidemiology in the host researcher’s work: 1) defining the nature and scope of public health law in the Netherlands, including as appropriate reference to EU and international (human rights) law; 2) assessing the applicability of the Five Essential Public Health Law Services Framework to the Netherlands, and adapting as needed; and 3) specifying a trans-disciplinary initial legal epidemiology research agenda for public health law in the Netherlands.
Burris’s visit will also stimulate further debate and knowledge development in empirical research as a legal method within the Faculty of Law of the University of Groningen. Beyond the legal discipline, the envisaged research interaction will benefit other health-related sciences including health science, medicine, and health economics. The research visit will benefit broader society by generating knowledge into how law may enhance the protection of public health and health prevention, an area that remains somewhat under-emphasized in the Netherlands.





Prof. mr. dr. B.C.A Toebes

Verbonden aan

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit Rechtsgeleerdheid, Staatsrecht, Bestuursrecht en Bestuurskunde


01/05/2019 tot 31/07/2019