“Rethinking Health and Human Rights”

Although Paul Farmer’s book “Pathologies of Power” dissects how poverty and lack of basic human rights has direct effects on health, the last chapter gives the reader hope as it discusses an agenda to alleviate the issues that aggregate the relationship between human rights and global health. Farmer tries to track the root of health discrepancies by saying society should make health and healing the symbolic core of this new agenda. Since most individuals find nothing wrong with promoting health and healing, rallying around these themes is something people would find no trouble in supporting. Farmer also emphasizes that we must make provision of services central to the agenda, in other words, we must make changes based on the advice of the sick and poor rather than blindly  following the policies implemented by those in power. Farmer’s agenda for improving health in relation to rights also includes establishing new research agendas that are not biased against the poor, assuming a broader educational mandate by spreading health awareness, achieving independence from powerful government and bureaucracies so that the voices of the people and for the people are heard, and securing more resources for health and human rights.

Thankfully we live in a time in which the connection between global health and human rights is becoming ever more clear. There has been a shift in the way people think about medicine and more of a push towards social equality. In a rapidly advancing and globalizing world, we have the tools to start changing the health system so that human rights and health around the globe are protected. Although genocide is not yet a stark reality of the past, a movement towards Farmer’s agenda ensures that we analyze the social, economic, and political factors that produce conditions in which genocide is able to take place. Thus, the faster we act upon the issues highlighted by Farmer, the faster we can take away the justification for an action as inexcusable as genocide.

 

For more information on Paul Farmer:

http://ghsm.hms.harvard.edu/people/faculty/farmer/

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