The Power of Law in Achieving Health and Well-Being

Law Health JusticeThe power of law in achieving health and well-being

As someone who studied psychology, I am interested in human behaviour and how we can change it to improve society. So, I’d like to give my perspective of why the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) – a legally binding international treaty – has the potential to change people’s behaviours to help us achieve better health and well-being around the world.

Law is an expression of how we want society to be and, with this in mind, can thus be used as a powerful tool to change culture and behaviour. One could see law as the blueprint for society – the architecture of society and the scaffolding around which living society moulds itself. With such frameworks, we can build better societies where everyone can enjoy scientific and social-political advances. To this end, law is an expression of intent – it is a declaration to say that global civilisation has not yet reached its peak and that there is still so much to achieve; laws can provide what we envision as a better future and how we want to reach it. For example, the idea of an international treaty based on the right to health can slowly change people’s understanding of what norms we want to strive for.

That is not to say that laws are stagnant or perfect. Laws should change with the times. In our globalised world, now more than ever, we need stronger expressions of how we want the world to be. Do we want a world where only a minority of people can access the recent breakthroughs in healthcare? Do we want a world where we value profits over people’s health and well-being? Do we want to live in a world where billions of people are left behind while few enjoy the advances that global civilisation has made over the past centuries?

Law has been, and is still currently, used by powerful actors to cause suffering and hardship; such when limiting the affordability of medicines in some instances. But laws that are formulated with the full participation of citizens – that reflect the real needs of citizens – can be a powerful tool used to enable communities to flourish.

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Lead In Our Environment is a Major Cause of Global Health Inequity

LeadLead In Our Environment is a Major Cause of Global Health Inequity

I believe we need a global treaty, like the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to ensure that basic health is a right that every citizen enjoys, no matter where they live and no matter how poor or rich their families might be. There are vast health inequities that separate various countries and various communities within countries. It is for this reason that several of us from around the globe have come together in a call for the governments around the world to agree to a Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH).

Science and medicine is frustratingly known for its “good news, bad news” stories on a daily basis, as a recent Kristin Anderson Moore blog reveals. She referred to data in America that show a significant decline in teen birth rate from 55.6 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in 1975 to 24.2 in 2014. There was also a decline in overall youth violence (in spite of an upsurge in the 1990s). For example, rate of serious violent crime among juveniles ages 12-17 declined from almost 40 per 100,000 in the early 1980s to 7.6 in 2015 and the homicide rate among youth ages 18-24 fell substantially.

There are scientific studies that link these significant declines in teen pregnancies and in youth violence to the reduction of lead toxicity in American communities. This is the good news. The bad news? Lead continues to be a serious environmental risk factor for health. Indeed, lead exposure is another inequity that people face around the world. Children and women of reproductive age in certain parts of the world are more exposed to lead than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

Lead is a toxic, deadly chemical, causing serious illnesses and accounting for far too many deaths around the world. It is one of the major causes of cognitive deficits in children everywhere. We have known this for many decades and many countries have laws and regulations that restrict the use of lead. Yet after many decades since its deadly consequences became known, lead continues to be a persistent environmental hazard. One of the major sources of lead poisoning is our transport system. For example lead gasoline is still in use in many countries around the world.

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I knew I needed to get involved in the FCGH…

needed to get involved
Join the FCGH Alliance at WHO / WHA May 2018

In May of 2016 as a delegate at the World Health Assembly in Geneva Switzerland, I had the privilege of presenting the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) on behalf of the Platform for an FCGH.

This was my first introduction to the FCGH, and as I read the statement to the ministers and delegates of member states, the words on the paper resonated with me deeply:
Achieving the health goals in the Sustainable Development Agenda requires acting through the right to health. The right demands non-discrimination – whether against indigenous populations or refugees and undocumented migrants – without which there can be no universal health coverage. It entails maximal domestic financing efforts towards health and other rights, with genuine international cooperation, the only way to ensure robust universal health coverage for all people, everywhere.

From that experience, I knew I needed to get involved in the FCGH and help turn this vision into reality. You can read the full statement here, and I hope you too will consider joining us in ensuring that all people everywhere have access to high quality health care as a basic human right.

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