Right to health- the fact-sheet

As per the WHO (World Health Organization) Constitution, created in 1946, it is the fundamental right of every human being to have the best possible health. If health is indeed taken as a human right then it means that there is added pressure – a legal obligation to be precise – on the governments around the world to make sure that people have access to healthcare that is provided in a timely manner, is within their range of affordability, and is of an acceptable standard as well. For this to happen, the government also needs to look at several other factors such as water that is potable and safe, food, sanitation, and housing to name a few.

At the same time, the government also needs provide proper information and education related to health to people. More than anything else, there needs to be gender equality as far as access to and provision of healthcare is concerned. A government is obligated to provide all the support to its citizens and make health a human right in the truest sense of the words. For this, it needs to allocate the maximum possible resources at its disposal and that too in a progressive manner so that the goal can be realized.

There are plenty of human rights mechanisms that work at an international level and look at how well or poorly this is being implemented. Two major names in this regard are the Universal Periodic Review and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. There are also plenty of countries in the world where right to health has been made a part of the constitution or the domestic law. If the government actually wishes to adopt a rights based approach in this regard it needs to create health programs and policies that give the highest priority to the needs of those who are right at the back end of the line.

Greater equity needs to be the motto of the day and this has recently been adopted at the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Universal Health Coverage as well. It is also important that the government makes sure that there is no discrimination to right to health on grounds such as race, ethnicity, age, or anything else for that matter. For this to happen, the government itself needs to take steps to make sure that all laws, policies, and practices that are discriminatory in nature are properly taken care of.

Meaningful participation also has to be ensured for a rights based approach to work properly. By participation it means that all the national stakeholders such as the nongovernmental organizations and other such non government actors take full part in this one. They should be involved in all stages of programming and meaningfully so. This includes stages such as assessment, implementation, analysis, monitoring, planning, and evaluation.

As far as the legal obligation part of ensuring health as a human right for governments is concerned, a government needs to create laws that are strict. They should be able to allow people to enjoy the best possible health without facing any discrimination whatsoever.

These laws have to be enacted in a clear and unambiguous manner. The term right to health itself signifies a whole array of human rights standards that have met with the consent of countries around the world. As such this right cannot be separated or divided from any other similar rights enjoyed by humans. This also implies that right to health can only be achieved when the other such rights are fulfilled by a government. Some of these rights may be mentioned as below:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Work
  • Education
  • Information
  • Participation

Just like any other right under Sun there are some entitlements and freedoms that come hand in hand with the right to health. As part of the freedoms granted under this right one can control her or his body or health. This includes reproductive and sexual rights. People also enjoy the freedom of being free from any interference whatsoever. This includes freedom from any kind of torture as well as freedom from being subjected to experimentation and medical treatment against their will. As part of the entitlements in this case people enjoy the right to a system of health related protection whereby everybody enjoys equal opportunities.

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