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Soc Sci Med. 2010 Oct;71(8):1520-6. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.06.042. Epub 2010 Aug 13.

Advancing health equity in the global marketplace: how human rights can help.

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Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa, 1 Stewart Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada, Canada.


The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH) ascribed health disparities within and between countries to "a toxic combination of poor social policies and programmes, unfair economic arrangements, and bad politics." This article analyzes the relevance of the international human rights framework (IHRF) to the Commission's goal of reducing health disparities with reference to both social scientific and legal scholarship. We begin with an overview of the IHRF, demonstrating its potential as a challenge to the normative foundations of the emerging global economic order. We then survey the research literature on mechanisms to ensure accountability for realization of health-related rights, emphasizing the potential effectiveness of making human rights enforceable through the courts, and the special need for mechanisms to hold countries and international institutions accountable for obligations related to the human right to health. We conclude by identifying three key directions for further research, policy and advocacy: comparative human rights litigation, specifically the willingness of courts to address broad policy and budgetary issues; the conditions under which governments legislate or constitutionalize economic and social rights; and how rich, powerful countries affect economic and social rights outside their borders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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