FSEM1010-24.FSEM: Health and Human Rights.F13.Geurts,Kathryn

Faculty Name

Kathryn Geurts

Document Type






Course Subject


Course Number


Course Section


Course Title

FSEM: Health and Human Rights

Academic Term and Year

Fall 2013



Area of Study


Course Description

Article twenty-five of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” In practice, what does it mean to declare a “right to health,” and how can we globally implement such a mandate? What obligations do governments and medical professionals hold in regard to the wedding of human rights to health? This course explores these questions by examining the meaning of “health” and its relationship to how people find fulfillment, and by discussing specific case studies of advocating for human rights as a means to promoting greater well-being on both a national and international scale. We will begin by studying statistics and concrete ethnographic examples of ways in which inequality makes us sick. As the course progresses we will take up increasingly macro-level perspectives by familiarizing ourselves with legal efforts and universal mandates aimed at bolstering social justice oriented health policies and practices (e.g., UDHR, ICCPR, ICESCR). In essence, the course suggests that global health is closely linked to the realization of human rights. Preventable illness, premature death, malnutrition, infant mortality, as well as epidemics and plagues relate directly to practices of discrimination, limits on freedom of expression, systems that oppress women, inhumane labor practices, and educational structures and processes that too often exclude and fail rather than nurture human fulfillment. The course will provide students with an introduction to the new, rapidly growing, and dynamic field of health and human rights.

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