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OHCHR and the right to health

“Health is a fundamental human right indispensable for the exercise of other human rights. Every human being is entitled to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health conducive to living a life in dignity.”

- Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - General comment No. 14 on the highest attainable standard of health

As specified in the General comment no. 14, the right to health is an inclusive right. It extends not only to timely and appropriate health care but also to the underlying determinants of health, such as:

  • access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation;
  • an adequate supply of safe food, nutrition and housing;
  • healthy occupational and environmental conditions; and
  • access to health-related education and information.

Key aspects of the right to health

The right to health has a number of essential elements:

  • Availability
  • Accessibility
  • Acceptability
  • Quality
  • Participation
  • Accountability

The right to health also contains certain freedoms and entitlements. See examples and learn more about the key aspects and common misconceptions of the right to health.

Other human rights and the right to health

The right to physical and mental health is closely related to — and depends upon — the realisation of other human rights. The right to health intersects, for example, with HIV/AIDS, disability, and climate change. Protecting the right to health means upholding other human rights such as:

  • The right to social security: A comprehensive social protection system helps to address the multiple dimensions of deprivation and hardship often linked to poor health, and ensures an adequate standard of living through illness.
  • The right to food: A healthy diet helps to build resilience, while poor or inadequate nutrition has significant negative health effects.
  • The right to education: Access to accurate information and health education allows us to make healthy choices about how we eat, how we protect ourselves from poor health and how we choose health care and services.

This calls for a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach to setting effective health policies that leave no one behind.

Learn more about the links to other human rights, implications for individuals and specific groups, and the obligations of States with respect to the right to health in the Fact Sheet no. 31 and other key documents below.

OHCHR’s work on the right to health

OHCHR plays an important role in promoting the right to health by:

Key documents

General Comment No. 14 on the highest attainable standard of health (2000), The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
E/C.12/2000/4

The Right to Health, Fact Sheet No. 31, OHCHR/WHO (2008)
PDF: العربية | 中文 | EnglishFrançais | Русский | Español

A Human Rights-Based Approach to Health, OHCHR/WHO (2008) 
PDF in English

General Comment No. 15 on the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health (2013), The Committee on the Rights of the Child
CRC/C/GC/15

General Comment No. 22 on the right to sexual and reproductive health (2016), The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
E/C.12/GC/22

Latest reports

Universal health coverage and human rights (2019): This report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights outlines some of the key human rights challenges of extending universal health coverage and offers a human rights perspective on universal health coverage.

View report page | View document E/2019/52

Contributions of the right to he­alth framework in achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (2018): In this report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights looks at how international standards on the right to health can help address challenges in implementing the health-related goals.

View report page | View document A/HRC/38/37

Mental health and human rights (2017): This report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights contains recommendations for improving the quality of mental health services, ensuring parity of esteem between mental and physical health and protecting the rights of persons with mental health conditions.

View issue page| View document A/HRC/34/32