Global Health Centre
21 June 2019

Reshaping Policies Beyond the Medical Sector to Guarantee Good Health

There is currently a growing interest in addressing external medical factors in order to improve people’s health. The right to health is connected to a wide range of factors such as a safe neighbourhood, a sufficient wage, a good education, adequate clothing or access to healthy food. The social, political and economic determinants of health strongly influence individuals’ well-being. When socio-economic needs are unmet, they are more likely to weaken mental and physical conditions.

The upcoming session of the United Nations Human Rights Council will draw closer attention to these factors in order to ensure better access to health. The inter-governmental body plays a leading role in the promotion of human rights by identifying situations of human rights violations and offering recommendations. The 41st session of the Human Rights Council will take place from 24 June to 12 July 2019 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. During the upcoming weeks, the Council will discuss the importance of health determinants and examine various other issues in order to assess the current evolution of human rights worldwide.

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health will be presented during the session. This analysis underlines the crucial role of social determinants of health in order to achieve the right to mental health. The Special Rapporteur, Dainius Pūras, stresses that good health should not be defined by the absence of a mental health condition. Well-being needs to be described by physical, psychosocial, political, social and economic factors that lead to the full enjoyment of all human rights. He explains that countries have an obligation to create an environment which enables individuals to live in dignity. He insists on a right-based approach to promote mental health rather than the common disease-oriented framework. The Special Rapporteur highlights that mental health requires interventions outside the medical sector: “People’s lives are often constrained by inequitable laws, structures of governance and power, and policies that stratify society, profoundly affecting human relationships and how people act throughout their lives”. Violence, work, discrimination, social isolation, housing and food costs represent sources of stress and are often root causes of mental health conditions. Addressing these determinants provides equal opportunities to people and promotes well-being. The report recommends that States implement a holistic strategy to promote mental health in an effective way. Governments have the opportunity to directly impact the health of their population by reshaping policies which can lead to economic stability, affordable health services, healthy meals, supportive social relationships, peaceful and safe environments.

Women’s rights and especially violence against women will also be issues in focus during the upcoming session of the Human Rights Council. Discrimination against women in laws and practice will be examined for different countries and new recommendations will be formulated by special rapporteurs, representatives and independent experts. The 41st session will also address the protection of the rights of migrants and refugees, the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members and early and forced marriage in humanitarian settings.


Further Information