Human rights day 2018: Right to good health
By: Jasmine Marfatia
Published On: December 10, 2018
Did you know that primary healthcare is a human right? And are you aware of how many people receive that right? Well, if you don't, let this blog shed some light on it.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; [...] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
As we honour the 70th year of the Human Rights Declaration, today, on 10th December, it is a good time to evaluate our fundamental human rights, how they affect our lives, and the lives of the people around us. One of these rights is the right to health.
It states - “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of 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.”
A 2017 statistical data report by The Lancet showed that India ranks at an abysmal 154 out of 195 countries in accessible healthcare systems. In 2000, we stood at 112 on the healthcare index, which only goes to show our regression in the state of healthcare over the years, and troubles that citizens are faced with, in having their right to health upheld.
Healthcare has always been a critical subject for the Indian population. The main reason being that though it is a fundamental right, it is not equally distributed among people of all socio-economic status. The struggle lies in several areas:
1. Criminally expensive private healthcare, and the lack of proper public service medical facilities
2. Gravely understaffed hospitals and clinics
3. Consistent shortages of free medications, leaving people no choice but to purchase externally
4. Poor quality of facilities, equipment, and infrastructure
5. Few or no hospitals in remote areas of the countries, forcing people to incur expenses of traveling to hospitals in metro cities
6. Lack of speciality hospitals
7. Poor state of health and sanitation facilities like clean and well maintained toilets, and clean water supply
8. Low public healthcare budgets leading to high out-of-pocket-expenditure
The theme for Human Rights Day this year is ‘Stand up for Human Right’. Aligning this year’s theme with health care would mean addressing the three factors that seem to dictate of the struggles in healthcare - access, awareness, and money.
When considering the most vulnerable groups in India, we think of people living below the poverty line, people with disabilities, people facing discrimination such as scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, the aged poor, sex workers, and people living with HIV.
A large majority of people that belong to these groups are deprived of even basic healthcare. It’s scary to think of the number of people who’ve had to actually forego medical treatment because the cost of getting professional medical help was beyond the means of the sufferer or the family.
Medical insurance is an option mostly available only to middle-class and higher population. And getting loans is a risk not everyone can take, if they’re unable to repay the loan along with the high interest rate, they could lose personal assets.
We have so many remote villages in rural areas whose inhabitants have never seen the insides of a hospital or a clinic. As a result, they resort to unreliable and dated methods of curing illnesses, which sometimes even aggravate the problem.
So many illnesses can be prevented by just building basic, but quality medical facilities in areas that vulnerable groups come from.
How we can celebrate Human Rights day
1. Educate people about their healthcare rights and how they ought to demand it.
2. Discuss matters of utmost importance to healthcare - be it with regards to building hospitals or making medications more available.
3. Encourage authorities to conduct medical screening, routine checkups, and free vaccination camps.
4. Reiterate the UN sustainable development goals that will ensure quality healthcare for all Indian citizens
In the meantime
It would be unrealistic to expect that the gaps in our healthcare industry will disappear overnight. Taking inspiration from the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that opened this article, changes must take place on a smaller, more local level, which will eventually scale up to larger national changes.
In the meantime, we as citizens must remember to support one another in whatever way we can. Medical crowdfunding has been greatly beneficial in ensuing that people can afford expensive medical treatment without the burden of debt, high interest rates, loss of personal assets, or worst of all, forgoing treatment entirely.
So encourage people and NGOs to take up practical medical financial solutions such as this, and protect the lives of their loved ones.
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