Health and Human Rights 101. Timothy H. Holtz, MD, MPH Institute of Human Rights Emory University. “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being...". -Preamble to the WHO Constitution. What is Health?.
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Timothy H. Holtz, MD, MPH
Institute of Human Rights
-Preamble to the WHO Constitution
“Health…is a fundamental human right and that the attainment of the highest possible level of health is a most important world-wide social goal whose realization requires the action of many other social and economic sectors in addition to the health sector.”
Health is the condition in which
human rights are fulfilled
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
*Adopted 16 Dec 1966, entered into force 3 Jan 1976, but
never ratified by the US
Understand the impact, positive or negative, of health policies, programs, and practices on human rights.
Maxim/challenge: All public health interventions and programs are potentially burdensome to human rights.
Article 29, UDHR
In the exercise of (his) rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
The public good* can take precedence to:
“secure due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others; meet the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare, and in times of emergency when there are threats to the vital interests of the nation.”
-ICCPR, Article 4
*Public health qualifies as one such public good.
Understand the impact of human rights violations on human health.
Maxim: Violations of all human rights, not just those explicitly describing health, have indirect and direct health impacts.
Understand that the promotion and protection of human rights and the promotion and protection of health are fundamentally linked.
Maxim: This inextricable connection is at the core of human health. It has strategic implications and practical consequences.
Individual and population vulnerability to disease, disability, and the ultimate outcome once ill (death) is inextricably linked, and in fact dependent upon, respect for human rights and dignity.
Rights (provided by States) are often accompanied by duties (of individuals)
You have a duty to participate as a civil actor to guarantee that your (and others) rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.
“Human rights are our common heritage and their realization depends on the contributions that each and every one of us is willing to make, individually and collectively, now and in the future."
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights