Face the Facts – Right to Health

factsIt’s time that we face the facts about our right to health. There are two sides to look at:  the facts about what this fundamental human right includes, and facts about why this right is denied to the vast majority of people around the world.  This post begins on the first side, with an introduction to a comprehensive fact sheet from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the World Health Organization.  Once we all know our right to health, we can better understand why it is often denied, and see clearer how we can address this failure of human rights and decency.

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As human beings, our health and the health of those we care about is a matter of daily concern. Regardless of our age, gender, socio-economic or ethnic background, we consider our health to be our most basic and essential asset. Ill health, on the other hand, can keep us from going to school or to work, from attending to our family responsibilities or from participating fully in the activities of our community. By the same token, we are willing to make many sacrifices if only that would guarantee us and our families a longer and healthier life. In short, when we talk about well-being, health is often what we have in mind.

The right to health is a fundamental part of our human rights and of our understanding of a life in dignity. The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, to give it its full name, is not new. Internationally, it was first articulated in the 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO), whose preamble defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The preamble further states that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

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Sign-On: Letter to Dr. Tedros

Tedros towards FCGHThere is a new Director General at the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. During the recent WHO election process, Dr. Tedros had often mentioned that helping the poor and marginalised is his primary concern, and that adequate health care for all is essential.

There is also a new NGO in formation, the FCGH Alliance, dedicated to advancing the development of an international treaty based on the right to health, the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH).

Below is a letter to Dr. Tedros requesting his support to advance this proposed global treaty, which would make it legally-binding on governments to assure that everyone’s right to health is realised, sooner rather than later. If you agree with the letter, please add your name and/or civil society organization to the list of signatures by clicking here. Help us to inform Dr. Tedros that a broad  group of people from civil society want real (legally-binding) change – not just nice sound-bites about those already left out and behind.
Thanks in advance.

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Dear Director-General Tedros,

Congratulations on your appointment to be the next WHO Director-General. As you assume the sacred global trust as head of the World Health Organization, no doubt you feel the mighty responsibility of your office, with its tremendous potential for bringing better health to the world’s people – and above all, to the poor, marginalized, left behind, discriminated against – people to whom you have long voiced great commitment. We were heartened to hear you state so powerfully upon your appointment that WHO must “put the right to health at the core of its functions, and be the global vanguard to champion them.”

One powerful tool to do just that is a proposed Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH), which would be a global treaty based on the right to health and aimed at national and global health equity. It could help put the right to health not only at the core of WHO’s functions, but also at the core of the global policy agenda. We call upon you to use your legal and moral authority to initiate a WHO process towards this treaty, with its transformative promise.

Read moreSign-On: Letter to Dr. Tedros