Dignity Matters: Applying Human Rights Frameworks to Health

Ali Yamin
Alicia Ely Yamin

Alicia Ely Yamin’s TEDx talk

“Patterns of health and ill-health are not just the result of biological or behavioral factors, but they are also the results of power relations, and often – as Paul Farmer says – pathologies of power, injustices. So . . . promoting human rights should lie at the center of our responses.”

Alicia Ely Yamin describes the transformative potential of applying human rights to health in her recent TEDxUConn talk. Yamin, HHR Guest Editor and Lecturer on Law and Global Health and Policy Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, uses people’s stories of suffering and powerlessness to explore the meaning and importance of human rights.

Applying human rights to health moves the traditional emphasis of human rights beyond “trafficking in indignation” into operationalization of rights. Yamin explains this includes budgets and negotiations, institutionalizing respect for human dignity and equality, monitoring and evaluation, and having remedies when things go wrong so those with political power are accountable; and participation, including linking people at the grassroots with national human rights institutions. She concludes, that dignity matters and we are all potentially agents of change.

Paul Farmer, Editor-in-Chief of HHRJ, writes in the Foreword to Yamin’s recent book that she illustrates the core purpose of a human rights-based approach, “eradicating the suffering arising from dramatic inequality within and between nations.”


Watch Alicia Ely Yamin’s TEDx Uconn talk:

Yamin’s latest book:
“Power, Suffering, and the Struggle for Dignity
Human Rights Frameworks for Health and Why They Matter”

Read more of Alicia Ely Yamin’s papers published in Health and Human Rights Journal:
Promoting Equity in Health: What Role for Courts?
Suffering and powerlessness: The significance of promoting participation in rights-based approaches to health
Shades of Dignity: Exploring the demands of equality in applying human rights frameworks to health