Public Health Symposium

2010 Public Health Symposium: 'Health and Human Rights: Reframing the Public Health Agenda'

2010 UM SPH Symposium
Health and Human Rights: Reframing the Public Health Agenda

Monday, October 4, 2010. Morning plenary sessions at Rackham Auditorium. Lunch panels at School of Public Health.

View VIDEO from the symposium presentations.

Symposium Overview

In 1946, the constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) first defined a right to health “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being...." Yet it took nearly 50 years before a human rights framework for health policies and programs was clearly articulated and implemented. Following the pioneering work of Jonathan Mann, founding director of the WHO’s Global Programme on AIDS, in the 1990s and the publication of General Comment 14 on the Right to Health by the United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the WHO and other multilateral agencies (e.g. UN Development Programme) frequently adopt a human rights framework to guide the design and implementation of their health-related policies and programs. This approach aims to establish a legal and social obligation on the part of the state and other institutions to guarantee the appropriate and equitable conditions for all people to be healthy. Often described as ensuring a “basic right to health”, this perspective is also now codified in the constitutions of several nations, and every country in the world is party to at least one human rights treaty that addresses health-related rights. Although multilateral organizations and many nations now view health and health related policies and programs through a human rights frame, Schools of Public Health in the United States have yet to integrate human rights as a core component of their curricula.

The program is subtitled "Reframing the Public Health Agenda" as this symposium provides a unique opportunity for institution-wide learning, a challenge to students to develop their public health careers using a critical human rights framework and an opportunity for faculty to re-imagine their curricula, research and practice activities. This symposium will introduce the fundamental concepts of human rights and their relationship to the public health agenda, build an understanding of how we have arrived at this historical moment and engage participants in interdisciplinary discussions about the implications of a human rights approach for public health theory and practice. We will examine how the field currently engages with international human rights instruments in research, policy considerations, and in the practice of public health. We ground this discussion by exploring the intersection of health and human rights in four arenas: the right to a clean environment, the right to sexual and reproductive health, the right to health of prisoners and the right to health of persons in complex emergencies.

Overview Readings

Human Rights Courses on UM Campus