Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 102, Issue 3, pp 207–209 | Cite as

Making the Case for Human Rights in Global Health Education, Research and Policy

  • Lisa FormanEmail author


If the 2010 CPHA conference is a bellwether of mainstream Canadian public and global health practice, its dearth of human rights papers suggests that, outside a small scholarly cohort, human rights remain marginal therein. This potential ‘rights gap’ conflicts with growing recognition of the relationship between health and human rights and ergo, the importance of human rights education for health professionals. This gap not only places Canadian health research outside the growing vanguard of academic research on health and human rights, but also ignores a potentially influential tool for achieving health equity. I suggest that human rights make a distinctive contribution to such efforts not replicated within other social justice and equity approaches, making human rights education a crucial complement to other ethical training. These contributions are evident in the normative specificity of the right to health in international law and its legally binding nature, in the success of litigation, the successful advocacy for AIDS treatment and the growing adoption of rights-based approaches to health. Canadian academic and research institutions should take up their rightful place within health and human rights research, education and practice globally, including by ramping up human rights-oriented education for health professionals within Canadian universities.

Key words

Human rights public and global health Canada 


Si la conférence de 2010 de l’ACSP est un indicateur du courant dominant parmi les praticiens canadiens de la santé publique et de la santé mondiale, le manque criant de communications sur les droits humains montre qu’en dehors d’une petite cohorte d’universitaires, c’est un sujet qui reste en marge. Or, on admet de plus en plus qu’il existe un lien entre la santé et les droits humains, d’où l’importance que les professionnels de la santé soient sensibilisés à cet enjeu. Non seulement la recherche en santé au Canada demeure-t-elle à l’écart du mouvement croissant de la recherche universitaire sur la santé et les droits humains, mais elle néglige un outil potentiellement influent pour atteindre l’équité en santé. J’avance que les droits humains apportent un élément distinctif à la lutte pour l’équité en santé, non couvert par d’autres approches de justice sociale et d’équité; cela fait de l’éducation sur les droits humains un complément essentiel aux autres formations déontologiques. L’importance de l’approche des droits humains se voit dans la spécificité normative du droit à la santé en droit international, dans son caractère juridiquement contraignant, dans les jugements favorables qui ont été rendus, dans la promulgation efficace du traitement du sida et dans l’adoption croissante d’approches fondées sur les droits en matière de santé. Les établissements d’enseignement et de recherche devraient prendre la place qui leur revient au sein de la recherche, de l’enseignement et des pratiques sur la santé et les droits humains dans le monde, notamment en privilégiant une formation orientée sur les droits humains pour les professionnels de la santé dans les universités canadiennes.

Mots clés

droits homme santé publique santé mondiale Canada 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Comparative Program on Health and Society, Munk School of Global AffairsUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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