Join a Global Conversation on a New Approach to Reducing Health Inequities

inequityJoin a Global Conversation on a New Approach to Reducing Health Inequities

A version of this post first appeared on the blog of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

At the core of the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH) is the conviction that today’s health inequities – nationally and globally – are unconscionable but not inevitable. The FCGH could incorporate specific mechanisms for countries to undertake to respond to these inequities, turning right to health (and human rights more broadly) norms of non-discrimination and substantive equality into directives for specific actions, into comprehensive responses. One proposal is that countries develop national health equity strategies. This idea is further explained below, along with information on an upcoming opportunity to you to participate in further solidifying this concept.

Such strategies are rare today. The FCGH could change that. But we need not, cannot, wait until our efforts to create an FCGH come to fruition to begin the process of implementing the measures it might include, such as national health equity strategies. We can begin now to encourage countries to develop such strategies. This would demonstrate their value for global adoption through the FCGH and, even more importantly, would begin to do some of the work of the FCGH — of the right to health, of the demands of justice — today.

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The realities of health inequities may be too well known to shock us any longer. People in richer countries live longer than those in poorer countries. And within countries, people who are rich live longer than people who are poor, people with more education longer than people with little schooling. Practically everywhere, certain populations, like indigenous peoples, fair badly when it comes to the potential to live long, healthy lives.

Yet the tremendous nature of this injustice ought to shock us still. It ought to shock us that the residents of one mostly white suburb of St. Louis can expect to live to be over 91 years old – 35 years more than residents of another St. Louis suburb, where most residents are black. It ought to shock us that South Asian women who are among the poorest segment of the population are almost five times less likely to be attended by a skilled birth attendant – one of the most important interventions for reducing maternal mortality – than they would be if they were part of the wealthiest segment. And it ought to shock us that the TB incidence in Canada’s indigenous Inuit people is more than 270 times that of non-indigenous Canadians.

Read moreJoin a Global Conversation on a New Approach to Reducing Health Inequities

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.

Read moreThe Power of Law in Achieving Health and Well-Being

Welcome to the Framework Convention on Global Health Alliance

WelcomeWelcome to the Framework Convention on Global Health Alliance.

The FCGH Alliance membership includes more than 30 organizations and individuals from Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America, and Europe that believe that unconscionable global and local health inequities are fundamentally unjust. Over the past few years, more and more global health luminaries and leading NGOs have called for a Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH), for using the strongest instrument of international law to advance the quest for health equity.

In the globalization era, the highest attainable level of health cannot be achieved by States acting on their own. A FCGH treaty would facilitate the coordinated global effort needed to achieve the highest attainable level of health everywhere. It would reform global governance for health to enhance accountability, transparency, and civil society participation and protect the right to health in trade, investment, climate change, and other international regimes, while catalyzing governments to institutionalize the right to health at community through to national levels.

We know this is an ambitious undertaking, but we are convinced that a FCGH would be a historical shift in global health, a powerful instrument for global health with justice. We hope that you will join us in this wonderful and challenging project that will transform lives and communities all around the world.

Martin Hevia, Chair
FCGH Alliance, Geneva
7 January, 2018

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Dr. Martín Hevia is Dean and Professor at the School of Law, Torcuato di Tella University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He earned his doctorate in law in 2007 at the University of Toronto, Canada and his law degree in 2001 at the Torcuato Di Tella University. Currently, he serves as Vice-President of the Ibero-American Association of Law Schools. He has been a keen supporter of a Framework Convention on Global Health for many years, and has recently been elected as the first Chair of the FCGH Alliance.