Book Brief: The Right to Health of the Child

The Right to Health of the Child: An Analytical Exploration of the International Normative Framework
S.I. Spronk-van der Meer
ISBN 978-1-78068-272-3
345 pages

By Health and Human Rights Journal intern Antonia Chan

The Right to Health of the Child: An Analytical Exploration of the International Normative Framework aims to identify standards in international law for realizing children’s right to the “highest attainable standard of health.” Author Sarah Spronk-van der Meer addresses topics ranging from what child health priorities can be derived from the international children’s right domain, to which actors are responsible for the process of implementation. By assessing how the “highest attainable standard of health” has been interpreted in the legal context of child health, Spronk-van der Meer provides activists, policymakers, and researchers with a useful analysis of the priorities and debate over implementation of this international human rights standard.

Over seven sections, the author looks at the legal framework on the right to health of the child. She identifies priorities based on three elements: the role of parents and children in ensuring the right to child health; clarifying attribution of responsibilities to the different actors involved; and measures required to ensure that children grow up in healthy circumstances. This approach to analyzing relevant legal documents—including UN/EU reports and General Comments—allows Spronk-van der Meer to discuss both international and regional interpretations of the right to health of the child.

The author concludes that the right to health of the child is a moving target because children live in continuously changing circumstances with shifting health insights. To progressively implement the rights of the child to the highest attainable standard of health, she recommends that State parties and the Committee on the Rights of the Child consider the follow measures as priorities:

  • Implementing a continuous, well-coordinated national health policy that develops an infrastructure of health care services with legislative, administrative, and social branches.
  • Preventing health problems, including immunization programs and early disease intervention.
  • Ensuring community-based Primary Health Care that ensures accessible, affordable, and quality health services that involves children, parents, and community stakeholders.
  • Providing information and training for children, parents, and medical professionals.
  • Carrying out child impact assessments and evaluations to identify pressing health problems and solutions; barriers to health care access; and impact of interventions.
  • Involving  the private sector in identifying pressing health issues and increasing availability of child-appropriate medicines, health services, and devices for disabilities.
  • Facilitating international cooperation between developing and developed countries that actively seek/offer assistance and share knowledge/experiences.

A thorough literature review of the international legal framework surrounding children’s right to health, combined with identification of emerging priorities in the field, make this book an engaging read for policymakers and public health advocates.