The right to health: from citizen's right to human right (and back)



If health is a human right and if human rights are ‘rights held by individuals simply because they are part of the human species’, then all people, wherever they live, should be entitled to the same collective efforts that can protect or improve their health. In reality, not all people on the planet have access to the same set of health-related entitlements. There are huge disparities between the entitlements one can claim when living in a high-income country and the entitlements one can claim when living in a low-income country. Even within each country, there are disparities. The health-related entitlements people really have seem to be dependent on their belonging to a nation, family, or household.
In this article, we explore and critically analyze two trends from a right-to-health perspective: the stagnation or even decrease of international assistance for health services in low- and middle-income countries and the increasing exclusion of undocumented migrants from health care in high-income countries. We argue that both trends constitute violations of the right to health; we posit an explanation for why they are occurring in countries that express support for human rights by expanding on the supposition that human rights are evolving from what were citizen's rights; and we discuss the role of individual human right supporters in an age of nationalism.


Keywords: Human rights, Right to health, Migrants

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Authors & affiliation: 
G. Ooms a,*, I. Keygnaert b, R. Hammonds c a Department of Global Health and Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SH, UK b Department of Public Health and Primary Care, International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University, C.Heymanslaan 10-Ent 75, 9000, Ghent, Belgium c Law and Development Research Group, Law Faculty, University of Antwerp, Venusstraat 23, B-2000, Antwerp, Belgium
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Published In: 
Public Health. Online publication complete: 21-MAR-2019 DOI information: 10.1016/j.puhe.2019.01.019
Publication date: 
Thursday, March 21, 2019