About the Right to Health

Central to IFHHRO’s work is the concept of the Right to Health. IFHHRO believes that health professionals and their associations have an important role to play in the monitoring and promotion of this right.

The Right to Health is short for ‘the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’, a phrase coined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) to ensure all people equal access to health care and health-related services (e.g., clean drinking water), within the limits of a State’s capacity.

General Comment No. 14

In May 2000, CESCR published General Comment No. 14, which provided a detailed description of the obligations of States to secure the Right to Health, as well as criteria for monitoring this right.

General Comment No. 14 strengthens the basic principle that the accessibility, availability and affordability of health care of good quality is an inalienable right for all. In the 21st Century, the Right to Health is a right, not just a service and not a charity, commodity or a privilege. Absence of available, accessible and affordable health care and underlying preconditions of health is thus not an absence of service, but a violation of a basic human right.

Accountability

Recognizing that there is a Right to Health implies that governments have obligations, both with regard to medical services and to other aspects of life that determine health, such as clean drinking water and adequate sanitation, or protection against environmental and occupational hazards. It also implies that individuals and groups can hold their governments accountable for not taking progressive measures to comply with these obligations.

Since 2002, there is a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, who oversees the progress made by governments in realizing the Right to Health.

Read more about the Right to Health on our Wiki pages

Latest News

  • Human rights law and access to abortion

    legalThe recently published Human Rights Watch Q&A on Human Rights Law and Access to Abortion discusses abortion as a human rights issue and the health consequences of unsafe abortions. It also shows that restrictive abortion policies do not reduce the rate of unsafe abortions, and highlights the positions of UN experts and agencies on the criminalization of abortion.

     
  • Intellectual property rights and access to medicines

    arrestLast week, on 17 July, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines took place at the UN headquarters in New York. Sub-titled "Advancing Health-Related SDGs through Policy Coherence", the panel came together during the UN High Political Forum on Sustainable Development. William New of the news service Intellectual Property Watch wrote a short report of this event.