Jonathan Cohen, JD, MPhil

Director of Policy Engagement, Institute on Inequalities in Global Health
Clinical Professor for the Division of Disease Prevention, Policy and Global Health, Keck School of Medicine of USC

Jonathan joined USC in 2021 as Director of Policy Engagement for the Institute on Inequalities in Global Health and Clinical Professor for the Division of Disease Prevention, Policy and Global Health at the Keck School of Medicine. An internationally recognized expert in health and human rights, Cohen joined USC from the senior leadership of the Open Society Foundations, where he directed the foundation’s $39M public health portfolio and chaired its leadership committee advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. In his sixteen years at Open Society, Cohen directed funding and advocacy efforts to promote health and human rights in over forty countries.

Professor Cohen is a widely published researcher and commentator on topics related to the political, legal, social, and economic determinants of health. His work addresses socio-legal determinants of health such as criminalization and access to justice, the rights and obligations of health providers, the contribution of equity and justice to health outcomes, and the link between public health and democratic governance. He is the original co-author of the Health and Rights Resource Guide, now in its fifth volume, which applies the international human rights framework to patient care, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, harm reduction, palliative care, children’s health, minority health, LGBTI health, disability, and access to medicines. He has authored policy reports on government accountability for ill-treatment in health settings and access to legal services as form of health care. He is the co-author and architect of the Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever Campaign, a global campaign and ten-point plan to place human rights at the center of the HIV response.

Prior to joining the Open Society Foundations, Professor Cohen was a researcher with the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. He conducted high-profile investigations and advocacy campaigns to address rights violations linked to HIV epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and North America. His reports profiled the rights of AIDS-affected children, the impact of punitive drug policy on access to HIV programs, access to comprehensive sexuality education, and intellectual property and access to medicines. He appeared in a variety of global media outlets and testified before numerous government and United Nations bodies, expert panels, and professional associations. He was a co-chair of the UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights and served on the UNAIDS Advisory Group. His work is widely credited with helping to establish human rights norms and principles on issues including access to medicines, harm reduction, and palliative care.