World Health Day 2024: My Health, My Right

Dr. Prakash Kotecha

Public Health Specialist, APCA

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World Health Day 2024: My Health, My Right

World Health Day, celebrated on April 7 every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization in 1948, provides us with a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world. Each year WHO comes out with an important and unique theme. The theme of our 2024 World Health Day campaign is: My health, my right.

This year’s theme is chosen to ensure the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination. Human rights are universal rights of all human beings, regardless of race, color, gender, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.

Health is a fundamental right of every human being. Health as a human right is recognized in the WHO Constitution (1948), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and many international and regional human rights treaties. All WHO Member States have ratified at least one treaty that recognizes the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.   

The right to health: The right to health is closely related to and dependent on the realization of other human rights, including the rights to life, food, housing, work, education, privacy, access to information, freedom from torture and the freedoms of association, assembly, and movement. It includes both nondiscriminatory access to quality, timely and appropriate health services, and systems and to the underlying determinants of health. Equity therefore is a very important consideration.

Conflicts and genocides are devastating lives, causing death, pain, hunger, and psychological distress. Decades long wars, poverty, and climate change have displaced millions around the world in both their home countries and abroad, exacerbating health issues at exponential rates.

The burning of fossil fuels is simultaneously driving the climate crisis and taking away our right to breathe clean air, with indoor and outdoor air pollution claiming a life every 5 seconds.

At least 140 countries recognize health as a human right in their constitution, but very few countries have shown commitments and mentioned how to finance it. This year’s theme will guide them to ensure action on their commitment hopefully. 

Key facts related to right to health.

  • The right to health and other health-related human rights are legally binding commitments enshrined in international human rights instruments. WHO’s Constitution also recognizes the right to health.
  • Every human being has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Countries have a legal obligation to develop and implement legislation and policies that guarantee universal access to quality health services and address the root causes of health disparities, including poverty, stigma, and discrimination.
  • The right to health is indivisible from other human rights, including the rights to education, participation, food, housing, work, and information.
  • Universal health coverage (UHC) grounded in primary health care helps countries realize the right to health by ensuring all people have affordable, equitable access to health services. 

 Core components of the right to health

The right to health includes 4 essential, interrelated elements: availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality.

Availability refers to the need for enough functioning health facilities, goods, and services for all. Availability can be measured through the analysis of disaggregated data to different stratifies including by age, sex, location and socio-economic status and qualitative surveys to understand coverage gaps. 

Accessibility requires that health facilities, goods, and services must be accessible to everyone. Accessibility has four dimensions: non-discrimination, physical accessibility, affordability, and information accessibility. This is particularly important for persons with disabilities who often encounter significant barriers to health related to the inaccessibility of services, facilities, and health information.

Assessing accessibility requires analysis of physical, geographical, financial, and other barriers to health systems and services, and how they may affect people who are marginalized. It requires the establishment or application of clear norms and standards in both law and policy to address these barriers. Minorities in each country are most at risk and hardly recognized for the paucity of data. 

Acceptability relates to respect for medical ethics, culturally appropriate, and sensitivity to gender. Acceptability requires that health facilities, goods, services, and programs are people-centered and cater to the specific needs of diverse population groups and in accordance with international standards of medical ethics for confidentiality and informed consent. 

Quality extends to the underlying determinants of health, for example safe and potable water and sanitation as well as requiring that health facilities, goods, and services are scientifically and medically approved. Quality is a key component of universal health coverage (UHC). Quality health services should be safe, effective, people centered, timely and equitable. Equity is very essential and often neglected. The care needs to be integrated and efficient as well.

Asian Pacific Community in Action’s Role

In striving toward health equity, we focus on advocacy and education at all levels of government, public health institutions and other stakeholders. APCA seeks out, collects, and provides disaggregated data on our communities, highlighting inequities in health outcomes because of social and environmental factors highlighted above. Our goal is to help community members translate their lived experiences to policy changes for the improvement of health outcomes. Asian Pacific Community in Action, in collaboration with NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health, are conducting a Community Health Resources and Need Assessment (CHRNA). The survey will take approximately 30 minutes and contribute to the future planning of health policies. Please participate by clicking this link

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