Human Right to Health

We work with community organizations, activists and advocates to create a universal health care system that is equitable, accountable to the people, and that treats health care as a public good, not a commodity.

The human right to health guarantees a system of health protection for all. This includes the right to equal high quality health care, and the right to living conditions that enable all of us to be as healthy as possible, such as adequate food, housing, and a healthy environment. Faced with growing inequities and the needless loss of life, health, and well-being in the market-driven U.S. health system, the program supports health reform efforts that treat health care as a human right, not a commodity bought and sold on the market. Because the new federal health reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010, continues to rely on failed market approaches, the ongoing struggle of local, state, and national initiatives for a universal, public health care system has become even more urgent. NESRI supports groups that seek to mobilize people to stand up for their right to health care and motivate policymakers to make health care a public good, with costs and benefits shared equitably. We have a right to get the health care we need, and a responsibility to ensure that everyone else can do the same.

Human rights principles can guide health reform through prioritizing the well-being of people over profits. Human rights confer a moral obligation to treat every person as our equal, endowed with dignity and an equal opportunity to pursue a healthy life, which means we cannot exclude anyone from health care, or give them inferior care, or force them to pay private gatekeepers to access care. The program develops tools to support campaigns and initiatives for a system of collective health care provision that guarantees that everyone can get the health care they need, regardless of their ability to pay. Universal health protection requires that we turn health care from a volatile market good into a sustainable public good. Publicly financed and administered health care, for example through a single–payer system, is the strongest vehicle for ensuring the equitable distribution of care to everyone in the United States and for making the health system accountable to the people.