The human right to the highest attainable standard of health: new opportunities and challenges

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2006 Jul;100(7):603-7. doi: 10.1016/j.trstmh.2006.03.001. Epub 2006 May 2.


The health and human rights communities have much in common. Recently, the international community has begun to devote more attention to the right to the highest attainable standard of health ("the right to health"). Today, this human right presents health and human rights professionals with a range of new opportunities and challenges. The right to health is enshrined in binding international treaties and constitutions. It has numerous elements, including the right to health care and the underlying determinants of health, such as adequate sanitation and safe water. It empowers disadvantaged individuals and communities. If integrated into national and international policies, it can help to establish policies that are meaningful to those living in poverty. The author introduces his work as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health. By way of illustration, he briefly considers his interventions on Niger's Poverty Reduction Strategy, Uganda's neglected (or tropical or poverty-related) diseases, and the recent US-Peru trade negotiations. With the maturing of human rights, health professionals have become an indispensable part of the global human rights movement. While human rights do not provide magic solutions, they have a constructive contribution to make. The failure to use them is a missed opportunity of major proportions.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Status*
  • Human Rights*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Niger
  • Parasitic Diseases / therapy
  • Peru
  • Poverty
  • Public Health
  • Uganda
  • United Nations