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Does it help to think of poverty or inadequate health care as violations of basic rights? The popular conception of human rights is expanding to include economic and social rights, such as the right to health and the right to food. Meanwhile, human-rights campaigners -- such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International -- have been actively lobbying for economic and social reforms that would enable more people in the world to lead better, healthier, more fulfilling lives. The Spring/Summer 2001 issue of Human Rights Dialogue explores the challenges posed by incorporating the struggle for health into human rights campaigns. There are currently more than 880 million people worldwide who lack access to basic health services, and 790 million who lack adequate nutrition. About 11 million children under age five die from preventable causes. On the face of it, then, tying health to human rights concerns is a mark of progress. Health professionals, policymakers and activists will be compelled to reevaluate their medical practices and health systems, which in many cases means reforming those medical practices and challenging institutional barriers. By the same token, those who are deprived of the basic right to health should feel empowered to argue for access to adequate healthcare. Still, as a number of the essays featured in this issue of Dialogue show, practitioners and activists often face difficulties in finding human rights norms to be of much use in confronting practical dilemmas. The health and human rights movement also raises difficult policy questions, particularly in terms of mobilizing popular support for human rights.
Introduction: Rights and the Struggle for Health
We argue for the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, but poverty and lack of health protection are also indirectly linked to a failure to secure civil and political human rights. Those who must struggle to survive can do little to resist oppression.
The Doctor as Witness
Ten years after he began documenting human rights violations and, ultimately, war crimes by the Serbian authorities, Albanian physician Neshad Asllani had become a full-time human rights advocate and founder of the Kosovo Center for Human Rights.
Questioning Health and Human Rights
To curb Multi-Drug Resistant-TB, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) committed to WHO's directive that no patient be treated without 80 percent compliance of the population. Brauman questions this stance "that human beings, people of real flesh and blood, ought to be sacrificed."
Rubinstein observes that health care practitioners can easily become conspirators in human rights abuses by placing the wishes of the state before the rights of the patient.
Transforming Practice through Activism
In the systematic promotion and defense of a person's right to adequate health care, Chilean activists have a multitude of opportunities both to require health care institutions to carry out their promises and to identify what new commitments can and should be made.
Applying Human Rights to the HIV/AIDS Crisis
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), a South African NGO, campaigns for access to treatment for HIV/AIDS patients, but the international community must address patent abuse by pharmaceutical companies in order to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in all developing countries.
Temporary Health Care, Lasting Power
Richard A. Murphy tells how human rights advocacy helped the displaced citizens of Princeville, North Carolina, take on FEMA.
Using Indicators to Guide Advocates
Oil production in the Ecuadorian Amazon made people sick, and there emerged the Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia, a coalition of 300 indigenous and environmental groups, and "colono" communities to generate public pressure against the government's oil policies.
Operationalizing Human Rights
In the face of a diminishing social safety net, a growing number of NGOs in the United States have drawn upon human rights standards in articulating claims to improved access to health care. The Human Rights Project (HRP) is one such project.
The New Partnership of Health and Human Rights
The linking of health and human rights (H&HR) describes health status by the degree to which human rights are enjoyed. It demands that human rights norms be applied to policies and programs of health systems and to the conduct of health practitioners.
Restricted Mobility and the Threat to Health
Stephania Hansel and Jihad Mashal explain how Israel's restriction of mobility in the Occupied Territories has endangered a multitude of other rights.
Balancing Population Concerns with Women's Rights
India's population policy has adopted a human rights language. But, as Rachel Kumar explains, women's reproductive rights are still in danger
The Limits of Human Rights in Vietnam
While human rights are not unheard of in Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Minh Chau and Julie Yoder explain, they are of limited use in addressing the plight of the disabled.
Protecting the Mentally Disabled
Albania's treatment of the mentally disabled needs improvement. Harvey Weinstein, Ira Burnim, and Robert Okin tell how a human rights framework can help.
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