Abstract
In confronting the insalubrious ramifications of globalization, human rights scholars and activists have argued for greater national and international responsibility pursuant to the human right to health. Codified seminally in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the right to health proclaims that states bear an obligation to realize the “highest attainable standard” of health for all. However, in pressing for the highest attainable standard for each individual, the right to health has been ineffective in compelling states to address burgeoning inequalities in underlying determinants of health, focusing on individual medical treatments at the expense of public health systems. This article contends that the paradigm of individual health, focused on a right to individual medical care, is incapable of responding to health inequities in a globalized world and thereby hampers efforts to operationalize health rights through public health systems. While the right to health has evolved in international discourse over time, this evolution of the individual right to health cannot address the harmful societal ramifications of economic globalization. Rather than relying solely upon an individual right to medical care, envisioning a collective right to public health – a right applied at the societal level to address underlying determinants of health – would alleviate many of the injurious health inequities of globalization.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2007.00206.x
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