What Human Rights Issues Have an Impact on Public Health?

What Human Rights Issues Have an Impact on Public Health?

Human rights are central to many health issues, including the prevention and treatment of diseases. However, despite the importance of these rights to public health, they are often not given sufficient attention in policymaking, programming and practice.

When states restrict individual rights, these limitations must be necessary (following proper scientific evidence), proportionate to the public health threat and time-limited. They must also be non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory.


Gender is an important issue in public health and a key factor in achieving health equality. Inequality between men and women in health is widespread and continues to impede the progress of gender equity in many societies (WHO, 2019).

The impact of gender on health is complex, with a range of determinants that have an impact on the health of women and girls across all stages of their lives. These determinants include social, economic, cultural and political factors.

Moreover, women’s and men’s health-seeking behaviours are often influenced by their understanding of what constitutes a healthy life. Consequently, they may fail to recognise the symptoms of a health problem or seek medical attention when needed.

In a public health research setting, researchers have an obligation to consider the impact of sex and gender throughout the design, data collection and analysis phases of their studies. These practices are called gender mainstreaming and are essential to achieve the goal of reducing sex and gender bias in health research.


Sexuality is a broad concept that encompasses a person’s attraction to and behavior toward other people as well as their interests in sexual and romantic relationships. It can be defined in terms of sex or gender identity and is a part of an individual’s identity.

Throughout the lifespan, sexuality can have multiple effects on health, including the ability to initiate and maintain healthy relationships as well as the risk of developing diseases that can be influenced by sexual practices (e.g., HIV, STDs, and substance use).

As such, sexuality has a significant impact on public health. Its inclusion in a comprehensive health strategy is essential to ensure that public health programs and services are effective in addressing the underlying factors that lead to sexually transmitted infections, sexual violence, and other determinants of adverse sexual health outcomes.

Access to Health Care

Access to health care is a complex topic and one that generates controversies over how to allocate healthcare resources. The availability of services depends on several factors including affordability, coverage and organisational barriers.

A key challenge facing health systems today is navigating these and other barriers to patient care simultaneously, as they seek to improve population health within a rapidly evolving industry. As healthcare leaders harness specialized tools, they can overcome those challenges and provide the best care to every person in their community.

A key factor in determining care access is geographic distance from a provider. Patients who live in rural areas often face barriers that keep them from seeing their clinicians, such as transportation issues or lack of affordable healthcare options.


Discrimination is the unjustified treatment of people based on their race, gender or other characteristics. The right to equality and non-discrimination is enshrined in many human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and various UN treaties.

It can occur at the individual level or at institutional levels such as schools, employers, housing providers and health services. It can be intentional or unintentional and is often the result of negative attitudes and biases relating to a Code ground.

Research has shown that UK adults belonging to ethnic minority groups who perceive racial discrimination have poorer mental and physical health than those who don’t. This is a significant social determinant of health and should be a focus for action.


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