Saturday, February 20, 2010

Journal of Health and Human Rights

Human rights are an aspirational and obligatory framework for social justice and international solidarity that articulate people's shared entitlements and responsibilities, to ensure that all people can live lives that they value. The Journal of Health and Human Rights is an extraordinary resource based at the Harvard School of Public Health and the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights. In 2007 Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health, became the journal's Editor and helped it transition into a fully open-access and online journal - because, as the journal puts it, "excluding the poor from accessing biomedical literature [is itself] a rights violation that impedes global health". The site’s blog, OpenForum, is also full of great reading and videos. Do check it out!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Robin Hood Tax: Turning a Crisis for the Banks into an Opportunity for the World

This tax on banks – not you or I - has the power to raise hundreds of billions every year. It could give a vital boost for global health delivery, national health programs, public education, and the fight against child poverty – as well as for tackling poverty and climate change around the world.

Not complicated. Just brilliant.

Learn more and add your voice to the campaign at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Harvard and Haiti: A Collaborative Response to the January 12 Earthquake

Click here for Streaming video (1:15:40; requires RealPlayer).

Ophilia Dahl, Paul Farmer, and colleagues from Partners In Health (PIH) and the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School provide an update on the situation in Haiti since the January 12 earthquake. PIH's activism, research, and health care delivery is guided by a commitment to 'pragmatic solidarity' - a commitment to struggle alongside the destitute sick and against the economic and political structures that cause and perpetuate poverty and ill health.

As the Harvard Medical School website explains, this approach positioned PIH as an essential partner for primary health care following the earthquake: "Working alongside the [Haitian] Ministry of Health to serve a catchment area of 1.2 million people, PIH has become one of the largest health care providers in the country. PIH had more than 100 doctors, 600 nurses, and a total of 4,000 employees on the ground in Haiti working from twelve existing PIH medical facilities in Haiti before the earthquake struck on January 12."
For more information on Partners In Health, visit the Health and Social Justice Video Network and

Monday, February 15, 2010

Building Primary Health Care in Nepal

Nyaya Health ("Health Justice") is an NGO working alongside the Nepalese Ministry of Health and Population to provide public health, hospital, and mobile medical care services in Achham, a large district in Nepal. As they explain on their website, the region's health care infrastructure has been ravaged by a decade of civil conflict and steep gradients of social inequality. Rooted in a commitment to health equity, "Nyaya provides essential primary care to the region, as requested and directed by community members. We work in partnership with local government officials as part of an initiative to rebuild the public sector health system. We construct healthcare infrastructure, train local health workers, and provide direct medical services. Our organization employs an all-Nepali staff with supervision and training from volunteer public health experts. We maintain an “open source” approach involving complete transparency in our expenditures, operations protocols, and clinical outcomes, which are detailed on this website."

To learn more, visit the Nyaya Health website, or read more here.
Click here for the second part of the video.

Haiti: The Politics of Rebuilding

"Just weeks after the earthquake that took more than 200,000 lives and devastated Haiti's capital city, a new normalcy is taking shape in Port-au-Prince. The shock of so much loss has barely worn off, but the mountains of rubble are slowly being cleared. And where landmarks like the national palace and the cathedral once towered a new architecture has appeared. Hundreds of tent cities have been set up, camps of internally displaced people who have lost their homes. Food distribution points dot the city, run primarily by the UN, with support from US troops.

These structures might be temporary, but at the makeshift government head quarters, in donor conferences, and in the boardrooms of international financial institutions, attention is turning to the long-term plan. As pledges of billions of dollars of international aid and investment are made, Avi Lewis travels to Port-au-Prince and to the Plateau Central and finds that debates over the vision of a new Haiti are already underway."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fair Society, Healthy Lives: Marmot Review Publishes Final Report

The Review followed the publication of the global Commission on Social Determinants of Health, also chaired by Sir Michael Marmot and published by the WHO. The CSDH advocated that national governments develop and implement strategies and policies suited to their particular national context aimed at improving health equity. The English review is a response to that recommendation and to the government's commitment to reducing health inequalities in England. It concludes that, although health inequalities are normally associated with the poor, sickness and premature death affect everyone below the wealthiest tier of English society.

Click here to view the report or an executive summary.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Access Denied: A Conversation on Unauthorized Im/migration and Health

"Do unauthorized im/migrants have a right to health? To medical care? To publicly funded care? In this blog, medical anthropologists host a lively conversation among scholars, activists, policymakers and others on the complex and contentious issue of unauthorized migration and health. We approach the issue comparatively, with attention to power, cultural context, and historical depth. Through empirically grounded, critical dialogue, we aim to rethink current debates and inform policy about unauthorized migration and the right to health care."

Click here to join the conversation...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Linking the determinants of health to Sen's "capabilities approach" to development and social justice

Keep your eyes peeled for new writings from Dr. Sridhar Venkatapuram and Sir Michael Marmot (Chair of the WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health) linking Sen's capabilities approach to development and social justice with social epidemiological research on the distribution and determinants of health. If you are new to these ideas, the UNDP website offers an excellent introduction to human development and the capabilities approach, while the WHO website offers similarly brilliant descriptions of the evidence on the social determinants of health.

The capabilities approach is the paradigm of the United Nations system, and argues that human development is best though of in terms of the choices people have to live lives they value. Rather than focusing on economic growth (which can at best be instrumental for health but can also worsen health disparities and population health outcomes), human development focuses on the expansion of peoples capabilities - the range of things that people can do or be in life. This approach also complements Dr. Paul Farmer's writings on social medicine and structural violence, which promote an ethic of pragmatic solidarity as the basis of medicine and public health - a commitment to struggle alongside the destitute sick and against economic and political structures that constrain choice, causing and perpetuating poverty and ill health. Marmot and Venkatapuram's writings are exciting precisely because they make these connections, and strengthen arguments for health equity.