A Time for Optimism? Biden’s LGBTQ Support Provides Hope, but Highlights Persistent Social Exclusion

Caroline Voyles and Randall Sell Pete Buttigieg’s historic appointment as the first openly LGBTQ cabinet member in the United States and Dr. Rachel Levine’s potential to become the first openly transgender person to receive Senate confirmation of a presidential pick do indeed raise hope. However, LGBTQ people are underrepresented in the Biden administration, and in elected and appointed government positions in general. There are only two openly LGBTQ members of the Senate, nine…

The Human Right to Vaccines: Preventing Discrimination Against the Unvaccinated

A. Kayum Ahmed As the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines gains momentum, a dystopian society of the “unvaccinated”—a class of people denied affordable and equitable access to effective COVID-19 vaccines—could likely emerge. This new class of people includes prisoners, Palestinians, and those affected by armed conflict. And because future supplies of COVID-19 vaccines have already been purchased by wealthy countries, the unvaccinated class will include a large part of the Global…

Early COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Must Include Incarcerated People

Ira Memaj and Robert Fullilove Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health researchers warned state officials about the pandemic’s impact on vulnerable populations, including those incarcerated. Prisons and jails across the United States have become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an infection rate five times higher than the general population and mortality rates that are three times higher. At the time of writing, 2359 incarcerated people…

A Time for Optimism? Securing Individual Choice for Intersex Genital Surgeries in the United States

Hans Lindahl Forced genital surgeries on intersex children remain a commonly overlooked health and human rights struggle. Skirting individual consent, invasive procedures such as clitoral reduction and vaginoplasty can still be offered to parents—if justified by the judgement of a specialist that a child’s anatomy looks “too atypical.” The surgeries, which impact fertility and sexual function, are usually performed when a child is under two years old. This practice of…

Health and Human Rights in the New American Administration

Benjamin Mason Meier, Lenore Hango, Victoria Matus, and Caitlin R. Williams The Trump Administration has long threatened public health—prioritizing ideology over evidence to eviscerate the institutions underlying health. With populist leadership dividing America, the Administration weakened democratic institutions and violated human rights. This populist neglect of health and human rights has extended globally through nationalism, with President Trump flouting international norms and weakening international organizations. These attacks on public health,…

The Right to Healthy Environments and Space for Physical Exercise

Tolu Oni, Estelle V. Lambert, and Kent Buse The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated a global humanitarian crisis, the nature of which has brought health and economic disparities sharply into focus and opened a wide-ranging human rights dialogue. This includes tensions between individual and collective rights to health (quarantine, movement restrictions, and shelter-in-place laws); the balance between the right to health and the right to education (with school closures) or to…

A Time for Optimism? Decolonizing the Determinants of Health

Jonathan Cohen The global movement against anti-Black racism has coincided with a pandemic that has revealed and magnified racial inequality, creating a watershed moment for public health. We are witnessing not only the social, economic, and political determinants of vulnerability to infectious disease, but also the racial and colonial hierarchies that lie underneath these roots. Meeting this moment requires that we look back at the history of public health and…

A New Blog Series: A Time for Optimism?

As the world bids farewell to this sad and traumatic year, in which we have witnessed the divisions created by inequality, racism, and poor leadership, is it possible to entertain a sense of hope? Hope that COVID-19 has shown us how connected we are, shown what happens when we neglect the frailest, the poorest, the most discriminated against, and that this might bring about change? That we have learned how…

Public Health Policy Shapes COVID-19 Impact: UN Expert’s Final Report

Dainius Pūras In my final report as Special Rapporteur on the right to health, presented to the UN General Assembly this week, I stress that the most effective “vaccine” for global health challenges has been, and will always be, the full realization of all human rights, including the promotion of physical and mental health through the meaningful participation and empowerment of all people. Throughout my six-year tenure of the right…

UN Experts: Access to Contraception and Abortion Must Continue During COVID-19

UN Experts joined together to remind states of their human rights duty to ensure access to contraception for anyone who wants it, including during COVID-19.  On World Contraception Day (26 September), the experts, led by the new Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, states, “The right to sexual and reproductive health includes women’s freedom to decide whether to be pregnant, how many children to have, and…