All This and Health, Too?

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By Dr. Nicole Dubus

There are times in human history when the sufferings we inflict upon each other force ourselves to come together enough, for a brief moment, to set a higher standard for how to live among others. With a vision of the world as a global community, many nations gathered post World War II to set a higher standard of respect and care for each other. Among these tasks was the development of agreed upon rights that ALL humans are granted by the very nature of being born. One of these rights is the right “to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family.” Interestingly this right includes a list of components deemed by the drafters to be essential to meet “a standard of living adequate for health and well-being.” These components include: “food, clothing, housing, medical care, necessary social services, the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Health as a human right

Health as a social condition involving access to food, clothing, housing, medical care, social services and financial security. This is a fundamental change from seeing health as an individual condition and responsibility. This human right established in 1948 by many nations sees health, good health, born from adequate food to provide nutrients, clothing to protect from the elements, housing to keep one safe and protected, medical care to address prevention and illness, social services to aid good health beyond medicine, and financial security to allow one to support one’s self and one’s family. This means we can’t just look at one’s insurance coverage to understand if s/he has the right to health. We must step back and look at the person through a wider lens: does s/he have all these components to enable his/her right to health?

Do we want to live in a society that upholds this right? What would it mean to each of us? What would we gain and what would we have to give up? If our society were an extended family, would we ensure this right to our family members?

On the Congress floor, two visions of the United States play out. It is time for each of us to know our vision for this country: are we an extended family or are we a collection of individuals? Are we as a world a global community or a collection of separate nations? If the world is a global community, do we help to uphold this human right in other nations?

Human Right #25

  1. 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.
  2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Dr. Nicole Dubus is Assistant Professor of Social Work at Wheelock College. Nicole Dubus has been active in the field since the mid-1980s, working in northern California and Massachusetts in public and private settings. Her research interests are in community-based research, home-visitation programs, early parenthood, culturally-sensitive clinical skills, and the experiences of refugees throughout the life course.