Abstract – Critical concepts: From the editor

Alicia Ely Yamin

This year, which marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), is a fitting time to take stock of how far the human rights movement has come and of the challenges that lie ahead. Human rights is now the dominant language for claims of human emancipation around the world; human rights theory and practice have permeated many domains beyond the law, including health. Still, the landscape of global health is marked by vast inequities and brutal deprivation, and it is not yet clear how bringing human rights concepts and strategies to bear will change the lives of the millions of people who are suffering. 

We hope that this journal can begin to answer some of these questions. We, the editors, believe that human rights provides not the only, but one, critical framework and set of tools through which to advance social justice in health. In this Critical Concepts section, as well as throughout the journal, we hope to explore with you, our readers, the implications of adopting human rights frameworks relating to health — for planners, programmers and service providers; for activists and advocates; for researchers and professors; and for the diverse people whose lives are intimately affected.  Further, critical concepts imply critical thinking, not just about the fields of medicine and public health, but also about human rights — about the limitations as well as the strengths of using human rights frameworks to improve national and global health.