Human Rights Month: Health as a Human Right

Posted on December 27, 2017 by kerri
I’m going to try to avoid going too much into the political climate of the United States right now, but when discussing health as a human right, it seems impossible to avoid completely. Undeniably, health and healthcare need to be seen as a human right. If we are not healthy, we cannot be productive, enrich our communities, and grow an economy. By nature of the concept of health being a human right, this means that healthcare must also be a human right, to sustain physical and mental health and wellbeing.
The World Health Organization defines health and an adequate standard of health care as a human right. [1] You can learn more about exactly what that means here.
hands in green, red, yellow and blue encircling a blue globe on blue background.
Healthcare may be seen as something that takes place in doctors clinics and medical centres or hospitals, but self-care is the biggest single component to health for those of us with chronic disease. In order to provide adequate self-care we must have access to solid medical advice, as well as the medications we need to stay healthy. America has the highest drug costs in the world, and while I hail from Canada—which is, to many Americans, seen as almost utopian—we still have the second highest drug prices in the world, and prescriptions received outside of hospitals are not included in provincial health care programs—many Canadians do not realize this until they get sick, that we still either must have private insurance, public drug coverage programs, or pay out of pocket at full cost to stay healthy. As well, pre-existing conditions can still exclude you from insurance in Canada. So while Canada got some things right—we are still lagging behind in others. We all need to advocate to be better served by the places we live to stay or become healthy—as it is our right to be.
If you have a chronic illness or medical condition, health is something you have to think of more often than “healthy” people. You have to think of working to stay healthy, versus simply expecting it to be. People with chronic illness still have the same right to health and healthcare as all others—no matter their diagnosis, race, religion, where they live in the world, or sexual orientation. We all have the right to be healthy and receive adequate healthcare.
If you are concerned about the health of yourself and your community, no matter where you live, contact your elected representative. They are there to advocate for your rights as a citizen. Learn how your healthcare system works, and push to change it to ensure all people have equal access to health care—just like we all should. You can do this by writing letters, meeting your representative, talking to other citizens or patients, and learning about your own health system and other developed systems in the world, comparing their benefits and drawbacks. If we all work together, we can create a system that truly works for everyone—as we have to right to access.
If you live with a medical condition, you have the right to appropriate treatment: ensure you get it by wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace.

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