BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Human Right



The World Health Organization recognizes that the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right. This includes access to timely, acceptable and affordable health care of suitable quality. Human right to health is influenced by health policies and programs which have the ability to either promote or violate them. Certain social criteria are also essential this right including the availability of health services, safe working conditions, adequate housing and nutritious foods. The right to health is similar to other human rights such as right to food, housing, work, education, non-discrimination, access to information, freedom, entitlements and participation. It constitutes the following:

  1. Right to control one’s health and body (sexual and reproductive rights)
  2. Right to be free from non-consensual or harmful medical treatment and experimentation
  3. Right to a health system of accessibility, availability, equality, equity, universality and quality
  4. Right to receive treatment or refuse treatment

Despite the fact that health is a basic human right… or should be, about 100 million people globally hit below the poverty line due to health care expenses yearly. Most vulnerable and marginalized groups within countries such as indigenous and minority groups bear a disproportionate amount of health problems, healthcare costs and limitations to accessing quality and affordable healthcare. This population experiences significantly higher mortality and morbidity rates than the general public. Some groups such as women, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs also suffer poorer health outcomes due to social and economic disadvantage and discrimination. Moreover, the world’s most fatal communicable diseases – malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis – affect the world’s poorest countries, causing a burden on the economies of these countries.

Clearly, bigotry in the delivery of health services violates fundamental human rights and can have serious health consequences. Some examples include keeping people with mental health problems against their will, denying women access to sexual and reproductive health care and services, using people for experiments without informed consents or using them for harmful experiments, discharging unwell patients due to lack of hospital beds and forced procedures such as sterilization, abortions or virginity examinations in developing and developed countries. These violations create unequal health outcomes and can lead to ill health or death of the victims. Sometimes, it is often difficult to make fair decisions in the face of complicated and competing health priorities- however, researchers, health professionals and decision makers must be as fair as reasonably possible in policies and service delivery.

Reducing, and eventually closing the gaps in equality and access to health care and services require the effort of all individuals. More specifically, the responsibility of finding means to respect and protect human right to health is that of the health sector, government and international organizations that uphold human rights. In the last few years, there has been a growing acceptance for universal health coverage (UHC), a comprehensive means for strengthening health systems and improving health equity and access to health services. UHC has been identified as the third global health transition, following public health improvements like basic sanitation and epidemiological transition that decreased communicable diseases. International health and development organizations such as World Health Organization, World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, Oxfam, Gates Foundation, International Labor Organization, and United Nations Children’s Fund support and promote UHC.

In the words of Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general, “UHC is the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer and represents the ultimate expression of fairness.” Termed by many as a practical expression of the right to health, UHC was selected in September 2015 as one of the key targets to implement the health goal in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is believed that through the continued worldwide adoption of UHC, the right to health will gradually be endorsed across all countries and social groups.

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