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Right to Know Day: importance of information to health highlighted

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 27 September 2012 - This ARTICLE 19 policy brief examines the policy implications of nations' international human rights obligations on the right to information and the right to health.

It sets out the relationship between the right to information and the right to health, specifically examining how the right to information is relevant to the right to health, and surveys the international legal frameworks on the right to information and the right to health respectively. The core of the paper highlights the nexus between these rights in practice, identifying key features of a legal and policy framework and makes recommendations for the promotion of the right to health through the right to information, which states should adopt. It also highlights particular issues concerning the protection of maternal health.

This policy brief demonstrates how the right to information and the right to health converge in specific legal and policy terms. The brief develops a number of principles that should be the basis of any comprehensive and coherent national health policy which properly protects the right to information, concerning:

1. Legal protections for the right to information and the right to health;
2. Duties to respect, to protect and to fulfil rights;
3. Non-discrimination and protection of vulnerable individuals;
4. The provision of information about public health and on specific issues;
5. The protection of the right to informed consent;
6. The protection of personal health information and medical data;
7. The development of health indicators and the dissemination of health information;
8. Publicising international reporting obligations of states; and (9) the obligations of the international community, civil society and the media.
The recommendations of this policy brief are focussed on state actors, although non-state actors should also do their part to promote the right to information and the right to health as mutually reinforcing rights. ARTICLE 19 advocates that all states and relevant non-state actors adopt these recommendations, which demonstrate the relationship between these two rights and how they may be realised in practice.

Some of the key recommendations are:
* State authorities should ensure that there is a legal and policy framework for the protection of the right to information and the right to health, including constitutional and legal protections for these rights.
* State authorities - including the judiciary and public administration - should ensure that they are meeting their obligations to safeguard the rights to information and health through laws, policies and practices.
* State authorities should respect the right to health by, among other things, refraining from certain activities - such as withholding, limiting or misrepresenting health related information - which may impede the realisation of the right to health.
* State authorities should protect the right to health by ensuring that third parties do not restrict or limit people's access to health related information.
* State authorities should fulfil the right to health through the promotion and provision of health-related information, education, research and statistics.
Additionally, the brief makes a series of recommendations relating to specific issues including non-discrimination, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, children, the right of access and confidentiality of medical information.

Download the policy brief:
A19_Healthy_Knowledge.pdf (1093 KB)

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