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Searching for the Elusive? Examining the Right to Health’s Status in the Pacific

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Integrating the right to health is pivotal in progressing health and development in the Pacific. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda provides an opportunity for this, given the relationship between health, human rights, climate change and sustainable development. The right to health’s content can be utilised to progress country obligations in various ways: through facilitating implementation of Universal Health Coverage, supporting the development of health metrics, and assisting in equitable health policies. Cumulatively, such measures can act as process and outcome indicators of a state’s progressive realisation toward achieving the right to health.In analysing the status of the law and policy relating to the right to health, this study has established a right to health baseline for the Pacific region at SDG commencement, contributing both to monitoring and evaluation, and promoting visibility of this often overlooked region. Methods included a systematic review of the literature on the right to health, and review of six structural rights indicators in existing law and policy relating to the right to health in the 16 Pacific Island Forum countries and territories, 14 of which are recognised as small island developing states. Findings confirm the right to health’s marginalisation in the region. The ratification of United Nations (UN) treaties, integration of international human rights obligations into domestic law and policy, and compliance with reporting requirements were found to be piecemeal and ad hoc at best.We argue that while legal recognition is only one step in the process of realising the right to health, the existence of right to health law and policy is a pivotal start if there is to be equitable implementation of the SDG health agenda. We also recommend Pacific nations develop one reporting framework, which can double to meet their reporting requirements under UN treaty bodies and SDG 3 global health commitments.

Affiliations: 1: School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, ; 2: School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland; Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, ; 3: School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland


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