The Human Right to Health

  • Wheras Ethics is the proper language of Medicine, Human Rights is the proper language of Public Health,
  • In public health, we uncritically assume scarcity of resources without asking why scarcity,
  • WHO comes with technical advice, the World Bank comes with money … countries usually prefer the money.

Published on Global, by Dr. Claudio Schuftan, Dec. 11, 2010.

1. The human right to health, some precisions:

  • 1. The human right to health (RTH) is an increasingly current discussion issue in international and national health corridors; it must be kept center stage, especially in the context of the ongoing millennium development goals (MDGs) discussion. Much new is being implemented there and should thus be followed.
  • 2. As a reminder, the RTH is about processes–and much of our MDG discussions still only look-at and target outcomes. Without the proper participatory processes, outcomes may mean nothing, especially for sustainability (i.e., MDGs: what after 2015?).
  • 3. So, what processes should the MDGs entail to be RTH compliant?: citizen monitoring of local public and private health services and the generation of public information about it; beneficiaries collectively providing feedback on service performance and demanding specific reforms via voice and dialogue; negotiation of issues about the services provided between service users, service providers and others as needed; demanding answerability by agencies and service providers and concrete responses from relevant officials. *
  • 4. By now, there are growing numbers of case studies of the application of the HR framework to health; this transcends the mostly theoretical discourse of the recent past where we did not have concrete applications to refer to.

… (full text).

* Health agencies always claim they have to reach a consensus before moving, and consensus always gives the most powerful the power of veto. Any conclusion or subject or terminology that may offend the powerful groups seated at the table, and who have to approve the report or policy, must be dropped. WHO does not escape this profile; it fails to hold up people’s health as a mirror which reflects the nature of the larger political-economic system. But we know the process by which this failure occurs and the agents responsible in each case. We must denounce not only this undemocratic process, but also the forces that exert this control (or pressure behind the scenes). As public health workers and human rights (HR) activists we can and must do so. (V. Navarro, A. Shukla).


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