Health-related human rights are under serious threat around the world, with devastating consequences for the public and healthcare professionals, a new report from the British Medical Association has warned.
the study, which examines the links between human rights and health care, identifies a “toxic combination” of emerging issues that have undermined human rights standards, putting renewed stress and pressure on populations of the whole world. BMA researchers say climate change, misinformation, neoliberalism, populism and socio-economic inequality threaten “the vulnerable, the outsiders, the marginalized, the displaced, the ‘others'”.
“This is a really critical time to reflect on whether we are serious about equality in health care and basic universal provision,” said Dr Julian Sheather, one of the authors. of the report. “We have rising health care costs, growing health care needs, and real challenges in how health products can be distributed around the world. Overall, we are at a turning point.
Inequalities have been highlighted by the pandemic, with the most powerful and wealthy countries having better access to vaccines and personal protective equipment, the BMA said. The researchers found that global cooperation had a direct impact on health outcomes, with resource-poor countries being more at risk of Covid infections.
Social media and other new technologies have enabled governments to disseminate public health messages around the pandemic, including surveillance and interventions such as test and trace, but they have also resulted in the spread of false health information and increased state surveillance encroaching on the privacy of its citizens. This misinformation “undermines and undermines” trust in health authorities and medical opinion, Sheather said.
“Populist politicians of a particular ilk have proven adept at channeling their [citizens’] fears of short-term political advantage. The potential effects of these populist calls on health-seeking behaviors can be extremely damaging,” Sheather said in the report, citing the example of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s public speech on Covid, who called the virus a “small flu”, which should be faced “like a man, not a boy”.
Conflicts have also had a negative effect on human rights and health around the world. The protection of medical personnel and facilities during the conflict is of particular concern, with hospitals and doctors being targeted, as seen most recently during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Medical professionals and facilities should be sacrosanct, but we see them deliberately and systematically attacked,” Sheather said. “We need to move into an era of restraint and respect for international humanitarian law. »
Populations that have been displaced and have sought asylum in neighboring or more distant countries are at greater risk of poor mental and physical health and face significant challenges in accessing health care.
The report describes the effects of the forced displacement of the Roma population on the standard of living and health care. It shows that one in three Roma lives in housing without running water and that Roma women are 4.5 times more likely to have a low birth weight baby than a non-Roma woman, their babies 2.8 times more likely to be born prematurely.
The research also highlights the plight of Myanmar’s 600,000 Rohingya trapped in the country, confined to camps with inadequate food, healthcare and education, and regularly subjected to state violence. Those who have fled the border to refugee camps in Bangladesh have limited access to health care and insufficient resources to support the hundreds of thousands of people living there.
Climate change and its links to more prevalent diseases and virus strains, as well as the transfer of infections along migration routes, have also been shown to be a major contributing factor to human rights imbalances between countries. Sheather says the transfer of viruses from non-human hosts to human hosts, as seen during the pandemic, “will continue to be a feature of climate change.”
The BMA makes urgent recommendations to policymakers, including removing barriers to migrants’ access to healthcare systems and increased support from wealthier countries to displaced and migrant populations. A clear record of human rights violations during the war, with a specific list of those relating to health and health care, was also called for, with health professionals calling for a strengthening of the International Criminal Court .