Students Staff

20 January 2016

Health mandate must harness universal human rights to succeed

Dr Dainius Pūras will outline his vision for addressing global health challenges in his role as UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health at the University of Essex on 27 January.

Dr Pūras will be speaking at the launch of his partnership with the University’s Human Rights Centre. He will explain why he believes “the human rights-based approach is a very effective ‘vaccine’ against failures in healthcare policies and practices.”

Dr Dainius Puras

Dr Dainius Puras

As the leading independent expert on the right to health, and the first medical doctor to be appointed by the UN to his role, Dr Pūras has already attracted global interest. His guiding principle in his work is his belief that the implementation of the right to health framework - developed by Essex’s Professor Paul Hunt when he was the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health in 2002-2008 - can only succeed by applying universal human rights principles.

In December, his open letter to the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime calling for a human rights based approach to global drug policy, including decriminalisation, was of international interest.  

The event next week will give Dr Pūras an opportunity to hear from a panel of experts about innovative opportunities to address the many challenges he faces, and respond with his own vision for the mandate, including how his unique position as a medical professional may shape his future work.

Speaking this week, Dr Pūras said: “People do not have access to essential medicines and this is absolutely unacceptable. But, paradoxically, we witness in many countries overuse and misuse of biomedical interventions.
“I will use my mandate to argue that medicine is firstly a social science, and that primary healthcare, social and community medicine, should be given priority in health care policies, health research and also medical education.

“We need to better use the synergy between the human rights based approach and modern public health approach. Only by placing these priorities as basics of healthcare practices and policies, can we meaningfully and transparently invest in specialised medicine and biomedical technologies. Otherwise, achievements in biomedicine may be too often misused or even cause harm and human rights violations.”

Panellists at the launch event are Professor Paul Hunt, Esther Major, Policy Advisor on economic, social and cultural rights at Amnesty International, and Mihir Mankad, Legal Advisor to Save the Children.

The event takes place 6-8pm on 27 January at Essex Business School. The event is free to attend but places are limited so please register.

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