Health and Human Rights
Latest articles in this journal
Published: 1 December 2018
Health and Human Rights, Volume 20, pp 65-84
Legal empowerment is increasingly recognized as a key approach for addressing socio-structural determinants of health and promoting the well-being and human rights of vulnerable populations. Legal empowerment seeks to increase people’s capacity to understand and use the law. However, limited consensus remains on the effectiveness of legal empowerment interventions in optimizing health outcomes. Leveraging a meta-narrative approach, we synthesized literature describing how legal empowerment interventions have been operationalized and empirically studied with respect to health determinants. The studies included here document diverse legal empowerment approaches and highlight how interventions changed the context surrounding the health of vulnerable populations. The absence of robust conceptualization, operationalization, and measurement of the risk contexts in which legal empowerment approaches operate limits the clarity with which interventions’ impact on health can be ascertained. Despite this, legal empowerment is a promising approach to address the health of marginalized populations. To foster support between the fields of legal empowerment and health, we explore the limitations in study design and measurement of the existing evidence base; such scrutiny could strengthen the rigor of future research. This paper provides a guide to the socio-structural levels across which legal empowerment interventions impact health outcomes in order to inform future interventions.
Health and Human Rights, Volume 20, pp 93-104; doi:10.2139/ssrn.3455274
Massachusetts is a national leader in health care, consistently ranking in the top five states in the United States. In 2006, however, only 86% of adults aged 19–64 had health insurance. That year, Governor Romney signed into law An Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care. By 2017, more than 96% of these adults were insured. The 2006 Massachusetts health insurance reform later became the model for the 2010 federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. This article examines, through a human rights lens, the 2006 Massachusetts health insurance reform 10 years after its implementation (2007–2017) to shed light on the effectiveness of this approach in achieving universal health coverage. Drawing on documentary and interview data, and applying international human rights norms, we found that (1) the 2006 Massachusetts health reform replaced a crisis of uninsurance with a crisis of underinsurance; (2) state leaders in health reform propose widely diverging solutions to the increasing health care costs, the inability of many residents to afford needed health care, and the persistence of medical bankruptcies; and (3) health care is recognized as a human right in Massachusetts, but understanding of the substance or potential of the right is limited.
Health and Human Rights, Volume 19, pp 5-7
Health and Human Rights, Volume 19, pp 147-154
Health and Human Rights, Volume 19, pp 73-88
This study investigates health concerns and access to health services for Roma from Romania who live in homelessness in Copenhagen, Denmark. They collect refundable bottles and call themselves “badocari,” which in Romanian refers to “people who work with bottles.” Homeless Roma in Denmark have not previously been studied through ethnographic research. The study stresses the importance of a syndemic approach towards understanding badocari health concerns. Syndemics is understood as co-occurring diseases, which unfold within contexts of social injustice. The case of the badocari is argued to be a case of “doubling syndemics” since the co-occurring diseases are further multiplied and enhanced by an ongoing mobility between dual contexts of precarious livelihoods in Romania and Denmark, respectively. The study complements the approach to syndemics with a perspective on human rights. It sheds light on the limited possibilities that exist for addressing health concerns of the badocari, both in Romania and in Denmark, and argues that the universal human right to health is not realized in the everyday lives of destitute EU migrants such as the badocari. Rather, they experience lack of access to adequate medical treatment and follow-up care, both as citizens of a member state and as co-citizens of the European Union.
Health and Human Rights, Volume 19, pp 55-68
Since abortion laws were liberalized in Western Europe, conscientious objection (CO) to abortion has become increasingly contentious. We investigated the efficacy and acceptability of laws and policies that permit CO and ensure access to legal abortion services. This is a comparative multiple-case study, which triangulates multiple data sources, including interviews with key stakeholders from all sides of the debate in England, Italy, Norway, and Portugal. While the laws in all four countries have similarities, we found that implementation varied. In this sample, the ingredients that appear necessary for a functional health system that guarantees access to abortion while still permitting CO include clarity about who can object and to which components of care; ready access by mandating referral or establishing direct entry; and assurance of a functioning abortion service through direct provision or by contracting services. Social attitudes toward both objection and abortion, and the prevalence of CO, additionally influence the degree to which CO policies are effectively implemented in these cases. England, Norway, and Portugal illustrate that it is possible to accommodate individuals who object to providing abortion, while still assuring that women have access to legal health care services.
Health and Human Rights, Volume 19, pp 81-93
Using the case of El Salvador, this article demonstrates how the anti-abortion catchphrase “abortion is murder” can become embedded in the legal practice of state judicial systems. In the 1990s, a powerful anti-abortion movement in El Salvador resulted in a new legal context that outlawed abortion in all circumstances, discouraged mobilization for abortion rights, and encouraged the prosecution of reproduction-related “crimes.” Within this context, Salvadoran women initially charged with the crime of abortion were convicted of “aggravated homicide” and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. Court documents suggest that many of these women had not undergone abortions, but had suffered naturally occurring stillbirths late in their pregnancies. Through analysis of newspaper articles and court cases, this article documents how El Salvador came to prosecute obstetrical emergencies as “murder,” and concludes that activism on behalf of abortion rights is central to protecting poor pregnant women from prosecution for reproduction-related “crimes.”
Health and Human Rights, Volume 19, pp 293-298
Before the 2017 election of the Director-General of WHO, and given the importance of human rights to global health governance through WHO, Health and Human Rights asked the three final candidates for their views on human rights, WHO’s human rights mandate, and the role of human rights in WHO programming. These questions were developed by the author in collaboration with Audrey Chapman, Lisa Forman, Paul Hunt, Dainius Pūras, Javier Vasquez and Carmel Williams. Based on responses to these questions from each of the three candidates, this Perspective was originally published online on April 26, 2017. On May 23, 2017, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was elected Director-General and will begin his five-year term on July 1, 2017.
Health and Human Rights, Volume 19, pp 237-252
Drug conventions serve as the cornerstone for domestic drug laws and impose a dual obligation upon states to prevent the misuse of controlled substances while ensuring their adequate availability for medical and scientific purposes. Despite the mandate that these obligations be enforced equally, the dominant paradigm enshrined in the drug conventions is an enforcement-heavy criminal justice response to controlled substances that prohibits and penalizes their misuse. Prioritizing restrictive control is to the detriment of ensuring adequate availability of and access to controlled medicines, thereby violating the rights of people who need them. This paper argues that the drug conventions’ prioritization of criminal justice measures—including efforts to prevent non-medical use of controlled substances—undermines access to medicines and infringes upon the right to health and the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress. While the effects of criminalization under drug policy limit the right to health in multiple ways, we draw on research and documented examples to highlight the impact of drug control and criminalization on access to medicines. The prioritization and protection of human rights—specifically the right to health and the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress—are critical to rebalancing drug policy.
Published: 1 December 2016
Health and Human Rights, Volume 18, pp 269-271