Health and human rights

The right to health

A family

What is meant by the right to health?

The right to health is a claim to a set of institutional arrangements and environmental conditions that are needed for the realization of the highest attainable standard of health. The right to health does not mean the right to be healthy.

The right is an inclusive right, which extends in addition to timely and appropriate health care also to the underlying determinants of health, such as housing, food and nutrition, water, healthy occupational and environmental conditions and access to health-related information and education.

The General Comment on the right to health, adopted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2000 sets out four criteria (often referred to as “AAAQ” criteria) by which to evaluate the right to health:

  • Availability:meaning goods services, and programmes need to be available in sufficient quantity)
  • Accessibility: meaning non-discrimination, physical accessibility, affordability and information accessibility
  • Acceptability: ethical, gender-sensitive and culturally appropriate facilities, goods and services
  • Quality: health facilities, goods and services of good quality e.g. trained health professionals, safe drugs etc.