people carrying signs at a health rights rally
Health & Human Rights

Health & Human Rights studies the relationship of international human rights law and their relationship to positive health outcomes, in particular the impact of litigation.

Human Rights Day 2018

This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), an incredible accomplishment by the international community to protect all people. “The UDHR gave people the power to claim their rights to health and to dignity,” says Professor Lawrence Gostin. However, new global and national challenges have lead to marginalized groups be denied their rights.

The O’Neill Institute is committed upholding human rights and promoting the deep connection with public health. Recent work involves legal mapping of the rights of migrants in the context of tuberculosis and ensuring the right to HIV prevention and treatment services to to marginalized communities in the US and around the globe.

Alicia Yamin, program Director, Health and human rights initiative new publication

Power, Suffering, and the Struggle for Dignity cover features a child smiling at the cameraDirected at a diverse audience of students, legal and public health practitioners, and anyone interested in understanding what human rights-based approaches (HRBAs) to health and development mean and why they matter, Power, Suffering, and the Struggle for Dignity, provides a solid foundation for comprehending what a human rights framework implies and the potential for social transformation it entails. Applying a human rights framework to health demands that we think about our own suffering and that of others, as well as the fundamental causes of that suffering. What is our agency as human subjects with rights and dignity, and what prevents us from acting in certain circumstances? What roles are played by others in decisions that affect our health? How do we determine whether what we may see as “natural” is actually the result of mutable, human policies and practices?

Read reviews of this important work by University of Essex Professor of Law, Paul Hunt and Senior Regional Policy, Ipas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Beatriz Galli Nordic Journal of Human Rights: Book Review of Alicia Yamin’s, Power, Suffering, and the Struggle for Dignity

Featured Projects

Alicia Ely Yamin delivers 2018 John and Valerie Rowe Scholars Visiting Lecture at UConn

Alicia Ely Yamin posing on stage with the 2018 Rowe Scholars

Alicia Ely Yamin was invited back to the University of Connecticut on April 18th to deliver the 18th “John and Valerie Rowe Distinguished Lecture,” two years after having served as Visiting Gladstein Professor of Human Rights there in 2016.

PAHO Commission meets in Trinidad and Tobago to collect and share information on causes of health inequalities in the Americas

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Commission on Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas met in January with leaders from government and civil society to better understand the factors that lead to health inequalities in the Americas and to find ways to address them. Alicia Ely Yamin discussed linkages between human rights and health and how a focus on human rights could be incorporated into the final recommendations of the Commission.

Health and Human Rights: Teaching Pack

This teaching pack on health and human rights was developed by the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard University in collaboration with human rights lawyer Alicia Ely Yamin. It introduces students to this interdisciplinary topic through a series of three videos as well as an educator guide and supporting materials.

2017 Report Launch: Transformative Accountability for Adolescents

2017 Transformative Accountability for Adolescents report cover with abstract circle graphics

On Monday, 18 September, the 2017 Report of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Accountability Panel (IAP)–Transformative Accountability for Adolescents -will be launched at the UN General Assembly in New York. The IAP is mandated by the UN Secretary-General to conduct an annual independent review of progress of the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016-2030. The report’s key findings and recommendations will be presented by the IAP Co-Chairs joined by a high-level and distinguished panel of dignitaries.

Call for Papers on Judicialization of health rights in Latin America


While countries across the world seek to make progress towards universal health coverage, they must balance two essential ethical imperatives that may conflict: to set national spending priorities fairly and efficiently; and to safeguard the right to health. This Special Section will examine the equilibrium between those two potentially differing imperatives in the context of Latin America. It will focus on the judicialization of health rights, the role of priority setting, different research methodologies and the measurement of impact beyond health outcomes.

Publication Details

The Health and Human Rights Journal is calling for papers to be published in a special section in June 2018 on Judicialization of health rights in Latin America. The special section will be edited by Octavio Ferraz, Reader in Transnational Law at King’s College London and Alicia Ely Yamin, Program Director of the Health and Human Rights Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

Health and Human Rights Journal is a peer-reviewed, open access journal under the editorship of Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer. It is published twice yearly by Harvard University Press, with new issues released in June and December. There are no publication fees unless authors can use open access publication grants.

Paper Topics

  • Research methodologies and assessments of impacts beyond health outcomes
  • Social movements, discourse, political, symbolic, individual impacts of judicialization of health rights in Latin America.
  • Methodological challenges related to the availability of information and statistics.
  • Divergence of research methods and its impact on the assessment of health outcomes.
  • How to evaluate non-health outcomes of judicialization in Latin America
  • Interpretations of the right to health and the role of priority-setting in the pursuit of the full realization of health rights
  • Socio-economic background analysis and multilevel/multidisciplinary studies.
  • Distributional benefits and geospatial studies.
  • Sociological analysis of non-litigating individuals.
  • Criteria for budget allocation in differing political and socio-cultural contexts: the role of prioritization strategies.
  • Need for accountability, transparency, monitoring and compliance of health rights.
  • Health rights judicial remedies structuring in Latin America
  • Institutional capacity and its effects on the enforcement of judicial remedies.
  • Power asymmetries in health policy-making.
  • Country-based studies on institutional participation on health systems.
  • Impacts of the exclusion from health systems and the need for re-thinking judicial remedies.

Submission Details

  • Papers must be submitted by 31 October 2017
  • Papers have a maximum word length of 7,000 words, including references.
  • Author guidelines are available on the website:

Questions about this special section can be directed to Octavio Ferraz,; Alicia Ely Yamin,; or Carmel Williams, Executive Editor, Health and Human Rights Journal at

Dialogues on Being Human: The Intersections of Art, Health and Dignity

The Dialogues on Being Human: the Intersections of Art, Health and Dignity series seek to make health and human rights issues more visible and comprehensible, by harnessing the power of art to convey the linkages between being human, living with dignity as a subject of rights and well-being; and to provide space to explore inter-disciplinary forms of knowing and sharing the human experience. Too often siloed scholarship in and beyond law is limited to forms of knowledge appealing to self- defined, specialized audiences, which can preclude the intuitive reactions that reveal much about the experience of both enjoyment and violation of rights. The selected artists share evocative artwork that was often created in response to experiences of exclusion or deprivation, or with the aim of expressing what complex human identity means to them. Bringing together these works of art and the artists who create them in one evening of intimate conversation with a leading human rights scholar, invites further reflection and inter-disciplinary dialogues. The aim of the Dialogues on Being Human is to open people to different dimensions of questions about the meaning of being human and using rights to create social transformation that advances human dignity and well-being. Information on the individual artist programs Anita Alvin Nilert is the Curator for the Dialogues on Being Human Series Support for the Art Dialogues is being provided by a generous gift from the Hans von Kantzow Foundation. still from The End of carrying All showing a woman carrying materials with a sunset behind her Wangechi Mutu, still from The End of carrying All, 2015 –3 Screen Animated Video (color, sound) 9 minutes 27 seconds loop, Edition of 3, Courtesy of the Artist, Gladstone Gallery New York and Brussels, Susanne Vietmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Victoria Miro London.

Global School on Health Rights Litigation

Organized by the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and the O’Neill Institute, this one-week intensive course offers participants an opportunity to develop specialist-level knowledge in relation to litigating health-related rights at the national, regional, and international levels.

During the course, globally renowned experts will lecture on a range topics, including: sexual and reproductive health and rights; rights issues arising in health-care settings; palliative care; approaches to health-care rationing and factors to consider in assessing the equity impacts of judgments; access to medicines and intellect.

Human Rights Ted Talk (Spanish) Human Rights Ted Talk (Spanish) on Vimeo.