Health and Human Rights

To oversimplify individual health has been the

Info iconThis preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: alth of populations. To oversimplify, individual health has been the concern of medical and other health care services, generally in the c mtext of physical (and, to a lesser extent, mental) illness and disability. In contrast, public health has been deT fined as "[ensuring] the conditions in which people can be healthymn4 hus, public health has a distinct health-promoting goal and emphasizes prevention of dlsease, disability, and premature death. Therefore, from a public health perspective, while the availability of medical and other health care constitutes one of the essential conditions for health, it is not synonymous with "health." Only a small fraction of the variance of health status among populations can reasonably be attributed to health care; health care is necessary but clearly not sufficient for hea1th.s The most widely used modern definition of health was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO): "Health is a ,state of complete physical, m e n d and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."6 Through this definition, W'HO has helped to move health thinking beyond a limited, biomedical, and pathology-based perspective to the more positive domain of "well-being." Also, by explicitly including the mental and social dimensions of well-being, WHO radically expanded the scope of health and, by extension, the roles and responsibilities of health professionals and {heir relationship to the larger society. The WHO definition also highlights the importance of health promotion, defined as "the process of enabling people to increase control ovel; a nd to improve, their health." To do so, "an individual or group must be able to identlfy and realize aspirations, p a t i s f y needs, and to change or cope with the environment."7 The societal dimensions of this effort were emphasized in the Declaration of Alma-Ata (1978), which described health as a "social goal whose realization requires the action of many other social and economic sectors in addition to the health sector."s Thus, the modern concept of health includes yet goes beyond health care to embrace the broader societal dimensions and context of individual and papulation well-being. Perhaps the most far-reaching statement about the (exparldedscope of health is contained in the preamble to the WHO Consti'mion, which declared that "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being."9 W DERN HUMAN RIQFTS T hmadern idea of human rights is similarly vibrant, hopeful, ambitious, and complex. While'there is a long history to human rights thinking, agree- ment was reached that al1,people are "born free and equal in dignity and rights"l0 when the promotion of humanvrights was identified as a principal purpose ,of t ha United Nations in 1945.11 Then, in 1948, the Universal w Declaration of Human R i g h ~ as adopted as a universal or common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. The preamble to the Universal Declaration proposes that human rights and dignity are self-evident, the "highest aspiration of the common people," and "the foundation of freedom, justice and peace." "Social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom," h cluding the prevention of "barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind," and, broadly speaking, individual and collective well-being, are considered to depend upon the "promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights." Several fundamental characteristics of modern human rights include: they are rights of individuals; these rights inhere in individuals because they are human; they apply to all people around the world; and they principally involve the relationship between the state and the individual. The specific rights that form the corpus of human rights law are listed in several key documents. Foremost is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which, along with the United Nations Charter (UN Charter), the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticaI Rights (1CCPR)-and its Optional Protocols-and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), constitute what is often called the "International Bill of Human Rights." The UDHR was drawn up to give more specific definition *tothe rights and .freedoms referred to in the UN Charter. The ICCPR and the ICESCR further elaborate the content set out in the UDHR, as well as set out the conditions in which states can permissibly restrict rights. Although the UDHR is not a legally binding document, nations (states) have endowed it with great legitimacy through their actions, including its legal and political invocation at the national and international levels. For example, portions of the UDHR are cited in numerous national constitutions, and governments often refer to the UDHR when accusing other governments of violating human rights. The Covenants are legally binding, but o nly o nthe states that have become parties to them. Partie...
View Full Document

Ask a homework question - tutors are online