Meaning of Health as a Human Right
Health is a human right. This means that it is:
- Fundamental – to human survival, dignity and development
- Universal – it applies to everyone everywhere
- Inalienable – it cannot be taken away from a person
- Indivisible – it is closely connected to other human rights
The right to health is recognized in a wide range of documents at different levels. The most complete source is Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Relevant texts from these and other sources can be found here.
General Comment No. 14
In May 2000, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) published General Comment No. 14 , which provides more explicit, operational language on the freedoms and entitlements included in Article 12. It provides a detailed description of the obligations of States to secure the right to health, as well as criteria for monitoring this right. General Comment 14 emphasizes that the right to health must be understood as the right to the enjoyment of a range of facilities, goods, services, and conditions necessary for the realisation of the highest attainable standard of health.
The right to health is not a right to be healthy, as good health is influenced by a number of factors that a government has no control over, such as genetics or risky lifestyles. The right to health is therefore a right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
It can be helpful to view the right to health as having two basic components:
- Health care
- Underlying determinants of health
The right to health includes both freedoms and entitlements.
General Comment 14 mentions four essential standards that the right to health imposes on health services, goods and facilities. These are the underlying criteria that a government must make progress on in order to realize the right to health. All health-related facilities, goods and services must be:
- and of good Quality
Together they are often referred to as ‘Triple A Q’ or the AAAQ Framework.
Rights-Based Approach to Health
A rights-based approach to health means integrating human rights norms and principles in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of health-related policies and programmes.
The main effect of a human rights approach to health is that it reframes basic health needs as health rights. In other words, becoming healthy and remaining so is regarded not merely as a medical, technical or economic problem, but as a question of social justice and concrete government obligations. Furthermore, a human rights approach recognizes that every human being is endowed with human rights.
(From: The Right to Health, A Resource Manual for NGOs by Judith Asher)
The main elements of a rights-based approach are:
- Attention to needs and rights of vulnerable groups
- Freedom of discrimination
- Progressive realization