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Right to Health

The Right to Health was affirmed at the international level in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25 in 1948. The article states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and his family...”. The Preamble to the WHO constitution also affirms that it is one of the fundamental rights of every human being to enjoy “the highest attainable standard of health”. Inherent in the right to health is the right to the underlying conditions of health as well as medical care.

The United Nations expanded upon the “Right to Health” in Article 12 of the International Covenant in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1966. Not only did this document guarantee the “right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health”, but it also specifically called for the “provision for the reductions of . . . infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child; the improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene; the prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational, and other diseases; and the creation of conditions which could assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.”

In 2000, the United Nations further expanded upon the “Right to Health” with General Comment No. 14. This more lengthy document expanded upon the original ideas from 1966 by exploring the historical context of this right, further defining the meaning of an adequate health care system, detailing obligations of states and ngo’s, defining violations, and discussing the basics of implementation.

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