Description: This is a valuable contribution to the growing body of scholarship on the link between human rights and public health. The selected writings describe practical applications of a rights-based approach to public health and, in so doing, illuminate the significant differences between a rights-based approach and the conventional needs-based framework.
Purpose: By amassing in one book eight case studies and numerous articles covering the application of a rights-based approach to a range of public health topics, the authors have succeeded in drawing a roadmap for practitioners. The authors clarify that a rights-based approach triggers an imperative to act, and to act in a manner that addresses underlying factors contributing to public health problems rather than simply addressing (when resources are available) the most obvious needs of the moment. Critical indicators offer a guide for how we do our work - such as ensuring that target populations are involved in the effort and are empowered to participate, protecting the most vulnerable, and fostering a climate to redress power imbalances. The authors further delineate the responsibilities or duties of state actors within a human rights framework, again offering concrete examples of how to work with governmental authorities and, in some instances, how to empower them to act in partnership with the community. The programmatic work depicted in these collective stories breathes life into the numerous legal treaties recognizing civil rights and civil liberties. The treaties, which grew out of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the U. N. General Assembly in 1948, form a globally-recognized ideal for humanity. It is only relatively recently that these rights have taken on meaningful form and have had an impact in the courts and in global civil society.
Audience: This book is of obvious and significant value to public health practitioners and soon-to-be practitioners (our students), in addition to those who are engaged in the scholarship of public health ethics. Law students and legal rights scholars will benefit from reading narratives describing the practical implications of human rights treaties. The authors have compiled the work of an impressive array of experts, including international legal scholars, academicians, physicians, and other professionals working in U.S. and international NGOs, who are at the forefront of adopting a human rights framework to guide their work. Most chapters provide abundant references for those desiring more in-depth information.
Features: The compilation of well-written articles describes how one might advance human rights in a wide variety of public health settings, including children's health, prisoners, environmental pollution, healthcare reform in the U.S., and healthcare delivery in developing countries. The chapters describe specific rights as well as specific obligations or responsibilities of the duty bearers (typically government or state actors, but also individuals), providing clear definitions of common terminology used in the literature.
Assessment: The human rights framework as eloquently described in this book offers a new way for us to think about how we approach our work: from deciding when and how to intervene, to how we plan, the goals we establish, and the metrics we use to gauge the success of our efforts. Public health instructors will find many of the chapters useful for illustrating, in very concrete ways, the link between human rights and public health, providing students (and practitioners) with a new framework for analyzing public health topics and for designing and evaluating interventions. Ultimately, civil rights and civil liberties are only of value when exercised. This book will contribute to the advance of human rights by leading increasing numbers of public health practitioners to advocate for, and promote, their realization. Those interested in supplementary reading are encouraged to review A Human Rights-Based Approach to Programming: Practical Information Manual and Training Materials (UNFPA, 2010; last accessed January 4, 2011: http://www.unfpa.org/public/publications/pid/4919). The training manual, authored by The Harvard School of Public Health's Program of International Health and Human Rights and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), offers guidance on the practical application of human rights, covering three main areas: population and development, reproductive health, and gender.