Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health

Time to read page:

The right to the highest attainable standard of health requires Government to provide the conditions within which all individuals can achieve their highest standard of health. It does not mean there is a right to be healthy but it includes a broad range of socio-economic factors that promote conditions in which people can lead a healthy life. This right is therefore dependent on underlying determinants of health, such as food and nutrition, but also housing or a healthy environment, as well as health goods, facilities and services. 

As an economic, social and cultural right, Government should use its maximum available resources to continuously improve the realisation of this right, which may include investment in newer technologies, drugs, or earmarking funds for additional staff and training.

The following elements underpin the right to health and help public officials develop solutions that comply with human rights obligations and allow individuals to enjoy their right to health:



The right to health requires Government to have in place a functioning health system, which is available in sufficient quantity.



It must be accessible to all without discrimination, considering vulnerable and marginalised groups and barriers that may prevent such individuals from full access. The different treaties set out specifically what the right to health entails for specific groups. Accessibility of the health system also means that health goods, facilities and services should be economically and physically accessible.



The health system should be acceptable in that it is respectful of medical ethics, culturally appropriate and sensitive to gender and life-cycle requirements. For instance, family planning, pregnancy-related services or sensitivity towards the needs of children and the elderly are some of the areas that require special consideration.



Health goods, facilities and services should be scientifically and medically appropriate and of good quality. Skilled medical personnel are required.


Information and Privacy 

In addition, Government is required to ensure individuals receive all relevant information regarding their rights as well as their personal health conditions and data. At the same time, individuals also have a right to respect for privacy when they provide personal health information. Access to information is further an important element to ensure that service providers obtain free and informed consent from services users before they undergo any treatment. 



Public officials should also facilitate and ensure individual’s participation in matters that affect their health in any way. This can relate to their personal treatment in receiving goods, health or social care, as well as their health and safety in broader terms, such as pollution or unsafe working conditions.