Right to Health

Right to health is regarded as one of the fundamental human rights and it includes right to live in dignity.  It was first recognized internationally by World Health Organization in 1946 whose preamble defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being.  The preamble further states that:

“the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 mentioned health as part of the right to an adequate standard of living.  The United Nations expanded upon the “Right to Health” in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1966. This document guaranteed the “right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health”. It also specifically called for the “provision for the reductions of . . . infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child; the improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene; the prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational, and other diseases; and the creation of conditions which could assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.”

In 2000, the United Nations further expanded upon the “Right to Health” with General Comment No. 14. This document explores the historical context of this right and further defines the meaning of an adequate health care system. It further details the obligations of states and ngo’s, defines violations, and discusses the basics of implementation.

Many other international human rights treaties have recognized right to health like the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, 1990, Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, 2001, Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights of 2005, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006.


Inside Right to Health