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Using international human rights law to improve child health in low-income countries: a framework for healthcare professionals

O’Hare, Bernadette Ann-Marie, Devakumar, Delan and Allen, Stephen ORCID: (2016) 'Using international human rights law to improve child health in low-income countries: a framework for healthcare professionals'. BMC International Health and Human Rights, Vol 16, Issue 11.

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The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that the right to health is closely related to, and dependent upon, the realization of other human rights, including the right to food, water, education and shelter which are important determinants of health. Children’s healthcare workers in low income settings may spend the majority of their professional lives trying to mitigate deficiencies of these rights but have little influence over them. In order to advocate successfully at a local level, we should be aware of the proportion of children living in our catchment population who do not have access to their basic rights. In order to carry out a rights audit, a framework within which healthcare workers could play their part is required, as is an agreed minimum core of rights, a timeframe and a set of indicators.

A framework to assess how well states and their developmental partners are adhering to human rights principles is discussed, including the role that a healthcare worker might optimally play. A minimum core of economic and social rights seeks to establish a legal minimum set of protections, which should be available with immediate effect and applicable to all nations despite very different resources. Minimum core rights and the impact that progressive realisation may have had on the right to health is discussed, including what they should include from the perspective of children’s health. A set of absolute rights are suggested, based on physiological needs and aligned with the corresponding articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The development indicators which are likely to be used to monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals is suggested as a way to monitor rights. We consider the ways in which the healthcare worker could use a rights audit to advocate with, and for their community.

These audits could achieve several objectives. They may legitimise healthcare workers’ interests in the determinants of health and, as they are often highly respected by their community, this may facilitate them to be agents for change at a local level. This may raise awareness on basic human rights and their importance to health and contribute to a needed change in mind-set from one of development needs to absolute rights. The results may catalyse colleagues to analyse further the upstream reasons why children, and the families in which they live, are not having their rights met.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: W General Medicine. Health Professions > W 21.5 Allied health personnel. Allied health professions
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 320 Child Welfare. Child Health Services.
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 395 Health in developing countries
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
Depositing User: Jessica Jones
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2016 09:20
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2019 13:28


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