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no justice, no health

August 29, 2008

Picture of a group of people. Photo courtesy of WHO/Marko Kokic

Social injustice is killing people on a grand scale.

— Closing the gap in a generation: health equity through action on the social determinants of health, World Health Organization | 2008

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On December 10, 1948, nations came together in Paris to recognize that all human beings have fundamental rights and freedoms.

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

— article 25 (1), Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The World Health Organization has just released a report outlining how to ensure that the next generation is much healthier than people currently are.

Its main recommendations are:

  1. improve daily living conditions
  2. tackle the inequitable distribution of power, money, and resources
  3. measure and understand the problem and assess the impact of action

The report – Closing the gap in a generation: health equity through action on the social determinants of health – includes gender equity, the consideration of housework, care work and voluntary work and fair representation in decision-making in its second point.

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that, “Gender biases in power, resources, entitlements, norms and values, and the way in which organizations are structured and programmes are run damage the health of millions of girls and women. The position of women in society is also associated with child health and survival – of boys and girls.”

According to Canadian Monique Bégin – one of 19 members of the WHO’s Commission on Social Determinant of Health, which is responsible for the publication – “This report is a wake-up call for action towards truly living up to our reputation” as one of the best places in the world to live.

The problem is rooted both within nations, and between them.

For example, according to the WHO, “International flows of aid – grossly inadequate in themselves, and well below the level promised – are dwarfed by the scale of many poor countries’ repayment obligations. The result is that, in many cases, there is a net financial outflow from poorer to richer countries – an alarming state of affairs.”

Where we live affects our health and chances of living flourishing lives. Last year saw, for the first time, the majority of human beings living in urban settings. Almost 1 billion live in slums. The daily conditions in which people live have a strong influence on health equity. Access to quality housing and clean water and sanitation are human rights.

— World Health Organization, Closing the gap in a generation – how?

sources

external download iconClosing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health (10.31 MB PDF download), full report

external download iconClosing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health (5.34 MB PDF download), executive summary

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, background information about the declaration, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

‘Social injustice is killing people on a grand scale’: report, cbc.ca | August 28, 2008

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