Health and Human Rights

20 in addition a more complete understanding of the

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Unformatted text preview: sulting from severe abuses' of rights and dignity remain generally underappreciated. Torture, imprisonment under inhumane conditions, or trauma associated with witnessing summary executions, torture, rape, or mistreatment of others have been shown t oiead t o severe, probably lifelong effects on phys: ical, mental, and social well-being.20 In addition, a more complete understanding of the negative health effects of torture must also include its broad influence on mental and social well-being; torture is often used as a political tool to discourage people from meaningful participation in or resistance to government.21 Second, and beyond these serious problems, it is increasingly evident that violations of many .more, if not all, human rights have negative effon health. For example, the right to information may be violated when cigarettes are marketed without governmental assurance that information regarding the hamsful health effect&af tobacco smoking will also be available. The health cost of this violation can be quantified through measures of tobacco-related preventable4Iness, disability, and premature death, includi ~ excess cancers, cardiovascular disease, and r espiratoj disease. Other g violations of the right to information, with substantial health impacts, include governmental withholding of valid scientific health information about contraception or measures (e.g., condoms) to prevent infection with a fatal virus (HIV). As another example, the enormous worldwide problem of occupationrelated disease, disability, and death reflects violations of the right to work under "just and favorable conditions" (UDHR, Ai-ticle 23). In t his context, the World B ~ identification of increased educitional attainment for S women as a critical intervention for,improving health status in developing countries powerfully expresses the pervasive impact of rights realization (in this case to.education, and to nondiscrimination on the basis o sex) on f v o~ulation ealth status.22 h A related, yet even more complex problem involves the potential health impact associated with violating.individual and collective dignity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights considers dignity, along with rights, t o be inherent, inalienable, and universal. While important dignity-related f health impacts may include such problems as the pool: health status o many indigenous peoples, a coherent vocabulary and framework to characterize dignity and different fonns of dignity r idations are lacking. A taxonomy and an epidemiology of violations of dignity may uncover an enormous field of previously suspected, yet thus far unnamed and therefbre undocumented damage to physical, mental, andsocial well-being. a . , Mann e t al. Health and Human Rights Assessment of rights violations' health impacts is in its infancy. Progress will require: a more sophisticated capacity to document and assess rights violations; the application of medical, social science, and public health methodologies to identlfy and assess effects on physical, mental, and social well-being; and research to establish valid associations between rights violations and health impacts. Identification of health impacts associated with violations of rights and dignity will benefit both health and human rights fields. Using rights violations as an entry point for recognition of health problems may help uncover previously umecagnized burdens on physical, mental or social well-being. From a human rights perspective, documentation of health impacts of rights violations may contribute to increased societal awareness of the importance of human rights promotion and protection. The l Mrd Relationship: Health and Human Righb-Explorlng an Inextricable Unkage The proposal that promoting and protecting human rights is inextricably linked t othe challenge of promoting and protecting health derives in part from recognition that health and human rights are complementary d approaches to the central problem of* efbing and advancing human wellbeing. This fundamental connection leads beyond the single, albeit broad mention of health in the UDHR (Article 25) and the specific health-related responsibilities of states listed in Article 12 of the ICESCR, including: reducing stillbirth and infant mortality.and promoting healthy child development; improving environmental and industrial hygiene; preventing, treating, and controlling epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases; and assuring medical care. Modern concepts of health recognize that underlying "conditions" establish the foundation for realizing physical, mental, and social well-being. Given the importance of these conditions, it is remarkable how little priority has been given within health research to their precise identification and understanding of their modes of action, relative importance, and possible interactions. The most widely accepted analysis focuses on socioeclonomic status; the positive relationship between higher socioeconomic status and better health status is well documented.23 Yet this analysis has at least three important limitations. First, it cannot adequately account for a growing number of discordant observations, such as: the increased longevity of married Canad...
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This note was uploaded on 03/22/2009 for the course PHIL 163 taught by Professor Wong,d during the Spring '08 term at Duke.

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