World Health Day: Health is a Human Right

For science.
At least half of the world’s population can’t access basic health services such as seeing a doctor, getting vaccinated or even receiving emergency care. Even in wealthier regions, households are spending at least 10% of their budgets on health-related expenses. Many households are pushed further into extreme poverty due to high out-of-pocket health care costs. These issues are made even worse during a health crisis such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Studies show poverty and poor health outcomes are closely linked. When faced with financial hardship, people must decide between their daily living expenses versus their health needs. As a result, they are more likely to go without necessary care such as consulting with a doctor or getting a prescription.

For action.

We have many opportunities in our daily lives to speak out for the right to health. Stay informed on why health issues are human rights issues. Urge your legislators to pass laws and funding that support greater access to health care for all. Ask your employer to support a workplace that promotes health as a human right through family-friendly policies, decent working conditions, non-discrimination and gender equality. Encourage your family and to speak up or take action. Organize events and partner with community leaders and other local organizations to promote the right to health. Share stories on social media about why health matters, and challenge online misinformation with credible health facts. Support public health leaders, doctors, nurses, journalists, community members, and activists around the world who face attacks for defending our right to health.

For health.
Human rights are closely tied to how diseases spread and impact communities. Certain groups are at higher risk for disease due to inequalities. The HIV/AIDS epidemic shows us why human rights are so critical to health. People living with HIV often face discrimination that can affect their jobs or housing. When the rights of certain groups are not recognized, lack of access to health information and resources makes disease prevention more difficult. Using advocacy and legal action, civil society organizations and people living with the disease have demanded equality and the protection of their right to health. As a result, governments around the world have enacted policy changes, legal reform and greater program funding for HIV/AIDS research and treatment. These actions have helped to extend the lives of those living with the disease as well as reduce the rate of new infections and AIDS-related deaths.

Where you are.
Social determinants of health impact the health of every community. Where you are born determines your access to health care along with lifestyle and disease prospects. An unequal and fragmented health care system means people receive different care depending on whether they can afford it. If you live in an underserved community, most likely your life expectancy will be shorter than if you live in a well-resourced community. To ensure good health is a reality for everyone, we must call on all countries to protect human rights as part of their health policies and systems. More investments are needed to strengthen the health care workforce and expand services. Better health outcomes depend on health workers delivering quality care.

Racism, stigma and discrimination are setbacks to our health by creating conditions that unfairly disadvantage certain communities while unfairly advancing others. When certain groups are excluded or treated unequally, their physical and mental health suffers. We must find ways to engage communities in speaking out against discrimination and taking action to tackle these inequalities. When we are active in accessing our own care, we can help our health systems become more efficient, which can lead to better health outcomes for everyone.