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Bringing rights into the fight against disease

A new report comes on the heels of a meeting that brought together dozens of people representing major universities, the United Nations and civil society groups. (USC Photo/Larissa Puro)

A new report from USC has examined the ways human rights intersect with the world’s leading cause of death: noncommunicable disease.

Released in November by the Program on Global Health & Human Rights at the USC Institute for Global Health, the report follows up on the USC conference “Roles and Responsibilities in Realizing Health and Human Rights in the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases,” which was held in May.

With funding from the Merck Company Foundation, the meeting and report emerged from recognition that links between health and human rights are being increasingly documented in areas such as HIV/AIDS and children’s health, but these links had not been clearly established in tackling illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, which classify as noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

International attention to NCDs has grown, most notably since the United Nations convened a high-level meeting on the subject in 2011. As the enormity of the NCD-related health and financial burden becomes clear, many fear it threatens progress toward the 2015 United Nation Millennium Development Goals to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and environmental degradation.

Building upon this growing concern, the report highlighted a range of areas where human rights and NCDs overlap —for example, the effects of inequality and discrimination in reducing access to quality medicines.

The report emphasized ways a human rights framework can ensure government accountability in preventing and controlling NCDs. It also underscored the need for more research, a stimulated political agenda and an informed and active civil society.

The participants — an international array of academics, activists and government representatives — agreed the report is a jumping-off point and call to action for additional research and training.

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Bringing rights into the fight against disease

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