Realizing the Right to Health
Everyone has the right to a standard of
living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his
family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and
necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of
unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of
livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Profound disparities across the globe in access to health are among the gravest challenges of our time. There is a growing realization that health inequities cannot be addressed by technical interventions alone: realizing the right to health requires bold political leadership to address the health needs of vulnerable populations, promote gender equality, and build effective, functioning health systems.
The World Health Organization declared in its 1946 Constitution that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being. However like many other economic, social and cultural rights, the right to health continues to be neglected in many parts of the world.
Taking a rights-based approach to strengthening health systems, Realizing Rights??? works to:
build the capacity, effectiveness and political leadership of Ministers of Health worldwide, in order to address critical health issues through individual and collective action for strategic, social and policy change;
inspire and catalyze innovative solutions to the African health worker migration crisis;
support strengthening health systems by promoting greater understanding and policy change around the critical role and potential of mid-level providers, with a focus on maternal and newborn health;
and broadly promote and deepen understanding and awareness of the right to health, and implement practical actions towards the realization of the right to health for all.
Our efforts are grounded in key human rights principles that are of critical importance to addressing health inequities in Africa. These include equality, non discrimination, participation and accountability, with particular attention to the promotion of gender equality and access to health for vulnerable populations.
October 11th 2010
Climate Change and Family Planning
Meeting Women's Needs, Addressing Climate Change: Researchers have released
groundbreaking studies demonstrating the health, rights and climate benefits
of meeting existing demand for voluntary family planning.
20 September 2010
Time to step up efforts to improve maternal health
This week world leaders gather in New York at the United Nations to review successes and shortcomings in efforts to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Mary Robinson focuses on what is needed to make faster progress on MDG 5 concerning maternal health in a new article for This is Africa Online - a joint initiative of the Financial Times and the UN Development Programme.
August 11th 2010
Sierra Leone's Model for Improving Maternal Health and Women's Rights
Mary Robinson recently returned from a weeklong trip to Sierra Leone, where she witnessed the commitment of the government, non-governmental organizations and health workers to improve the health of the country's women and girls. Here she reflects on her experiences in an account published in The Huffington Post.
Global Health & Development (GHD) was established as the newest policy program of the Aspen Institute on October 1, 2009 to work on innovative approaches to poverty alleviation, in particular, on identifying approaches that address both health and poverty alleviation and their interrelationship.
The program also intends to explore programs and partnerships related to the social determinants of health, including clean water, the environment, and social and cultural elements that influence health outcomes, and poverty.
GHD supports public leaders in health in low- and middle-income countries and creative solutions to address global health and poverty at significant scale. GHD believes that pioneering strategies in global health and poverty alleviation can be taken to scale, in part through broad policy debate and support, decentralized capacity building, cross learning linkages, and systematic efforts to support replication and scale-up.
The Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health (MLI) strengthens the leadership capacity of ministries of health in Ethiopia, Mali, Nepal, Senegal, and Sierra Leone in order to advance policy in three interrelated policy areas: health financing for equity, donor harmonization in health, and reproductive health.
MLI???s approach is grounded in the belief that stronger political leadership will improve health systems and ensure respect for the right to health, including for the most vulnerable populations. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, MLI works in partnership with the Results for Development Institute, the Council of Women World Leaders, and the World Health Organization.
Addressing the health of women, particularly their reproductive health (RH), is central to improving health outcomes at the country level. MLI links health financing and aid effectiveness policy reform efforts to RH outcomes in the three MLI RH focus countries of Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
MLI works closely, on-the-ground, with leaders in the five MLI ministries of health to provide tailored technical assistance in response to the ministry???s policy priorities. Activities include: holding technical workshops that showcase program findings and country-level experiences; providing an online space, www.ministerial-leadership.org, to share recent activities and spotlight the important work occurring in each MLI country ministry; and, leading study tours to best practice countries in the MLI policy areas.
The Health Worker Migration Global Policy Advisory Council works in partnership with the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA) and the World Health Organization to assess and promote innovative global, regional and national policy action to support the management of health worker migration globally ??? respecting the rights of migrants while acknowledging the responsibilities of sending and receiving nations.
This program addresses the shortage of doctors and nurses, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa which is home to 11% of the world???s population and only 3% of the world???s health workers. In countries that already have a limited health workforce, newly trained doctors are migrating to developed countries for more opportunities, such as in Ghana, where almost one-third of physicians work abroad.
By bringing together global and national political leaders, the Council assists countries in developing policy action to address this issue. The project has met with significant high profile interest from a range of policy makers including the WHO, member states, and individual Ministers, who are eager to implement policy recommendations from the Council and formulate new bilateral agreements with sending countries. Working in strong collaboration with the GHWA and the Migration Technical Working Group of the WHO, the project is poised to have significant policy impact, both at the global level through the production of a framework for a Global Code of Practice, as well as at the national level through direct policy recommendations to countries such as the US, Norway, and others.
Health System Strengthening for Equity: The Power and Potential of Mid-level Providers (HSSE) supports equitable access to healthcare and stronger health systems in Africa by building an evidence base on the role of mid-level providers in maternal and neonatal health, and promoting greater political leadership and policy action on this issue.
HSSE links evidence and advocacy, research and policy, working at local, national, regional and global levels and promoting learning between the global North ??? South and South ??? South. Working collaboratively with local in-country partnerships, the project is documenting the current use of mid-level providers in Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania and then characteristics of the enabling environment required to support their work.
The evidence generated from this research is being analyzed for policy implications, and integrated into ongoing advocacy efforts to build political leadership that will lead to action to strengthen health systems, channeling the power and potential of mid-level providers as a key strategy to uphold the fundamental human right to health.
The lead partners on this project are Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health's Averting Maternal Death and Disability (AMDD) Program in the U.S., Trinity College Dublin's Centre for Global Health in Ireland, and the Regional Prevention of Maternal and Neonatal Mortality Network in Ghana. The in-country partners are The Centre for Reproductive Health at the College of Medicine at the University of Malawi, The Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre in Tanzania and the Ministry of Health in Mozambique.
The Parliamentarians for Women???s Health (PWH) project, which closed in 2007, worked with a select group of parliamentarians in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania to improve women???s and girl???s access to health services, including HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care.
Working through a consortium of partners, including the International Center for Research on Women, the International Community of Women Living with HIV, and the Centre for the Study of AIDS of the University of Pretoria, the project aimed to support the parliamentarians in their political leadership and knowledge of women???s health by providing technical assistance and facilitating linkages to communities and women living with HIV and AIDS.
More specifically, through community and constituency assessment for MPs to learn directly about women???s health needs; workshops for skills building and knowledge sharing; and networking activities to connect MPs to positive women and civil society organizations, PWH showed that by strengthening their roles as political leaders, legislators, and advocates toward improving women???s health, parliamentarians hold the potential to drive the political will for change that is fundamental to improving women???s health care.