During the last few weeks we’ve been watching two lines of march coming together. With one arriving from the top and the other from the bottom, a unique opportunity to advance the rights of people to decent health care has developed.
In Rio de Janeiro, the WHO brought together a few hundred Ministers, UN agencies and health experts to discuss the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). They spent Oct.19-21, speaking about the great inequities in health around the world. Two finely worded Declarations came out of this World Conference – one from the Ministers / WHO and another ‘alternative’ from the Peoples Health Movement. Unfortunately, neither have many connections with the communities most affected by health inequities and neither bothered to consult before the meeting or enable the participation of the community during the Conference. Yet although these two Rio Declarations are mostly noble but empty words, they may serve to remind the signatories that they said they would act.
While the WHO High-Levelers were holding their 5-Star meeting, a few patients and frontline health workers from the Bronx (New York) began raising their voices within the new ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Connecting the health conditions and services in the community with the growing inequities of society, the term “OccupyHealthCare” began to circulate on social media including Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Quickly, a few people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific realized that there are similarities and common cause between their communities, from the Bronx to Borneo. The social determinants of health are now beginning to be discussed by those around the world that live with the realities that the WHO and Ministers in Rio were talking about, and making Declarations on.
This is an opportunity that should be seized. Together and globally. Perhaps never before has there been such a chance to spark a broad based, diverse movement of right to health advocates and community activists around the world. Crossing over the silos of specific diseases and health programs, bridging the gap between the North and South, ‘Occupy HealthCare’ is a term that can unite communities wherever there is hunger, poverty, discrimination and other determinants of poor health. We all should get involved and participate. #OccupyHealthCare is a great first step forward, together.