Focus Areas
Health & Human Rights

Health & Human Rights studies the relationship of international human rights law and their relationship to positive health outcomes, in particular the impact of litigation.

Alicia Yamin, program Director, Health and human rights initiative new publication
Directed at a diverse audience of students, legal and public health practitioners, and anyone interested in understanding what human rights-based approaches (HRBAs) to health and development mean and why they matter, Power, Suffering, and the Struggle for Dignity, provides a solid foundation for comprehending what a human rights framework implies and the potential for social transformation it entails. Applying a human rights framework to health demands that we think about our own suffering and that of others, as well as the fundamental causes of that suffering. What is our agency as human subjects with rights and dignity, and what prevents us from acting in certain circumstances? What roles are played by others in decisions that affect our health? How do we determine whether what we may see as "natural" is actually the result of mutable, human policies and practices?

Read reviews of this important work by University of Essex Professor of Law, Paul Hunt and Senior Regional Policy, Ipas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Beatriz Galli


Nordic Journal of Human Rights: Book Review of Alicia Yamin's, Power, Suffering, and the Struggle for Dignity

Featured Projects

Dialogues on Being Human: The Intersections of Art, Health and Dignity

The Health and Human Rights Initiative is exploring creative approaches to making health and human rights issues more visible and comprehensible. As a part of this effort, the Initative has invited artist Jesse Krimes to speak on the themes which permeate his artwork, including the dehumanizing aspects of incarceration and the Criminal Justice System. Jesse will be joined for a dialogue with experts bringing a multidimensional perspective to the topic.

Artist Jesse Krimes conveys the dehumanizing experience of incarceration through a compelling body of work clandestinely produced over 6 years in jail while serving time for a non-violent drug offense.Surviving his odyssey through the criminal justice system by producing art, Jesse’s work embodies themes of alienation, purification, redemption, social stratification and power.

Arrested one month after graduating from art school, federal government guidelines and prosecutorial pressure resulted in a sentencing of 10 years to life. Jesse’s prison work varies greatly and reflects his different confinement experiences. While isolated for one year in a 23-hour maximum-security cell, Jesse created 292 separate portraits of other offenders on slivers of prison-issued bars of soap.

Although Jesse’s sentencing judge recommended a low security facility close to his home in Lancaster Pa, the bureau of prisons housed him in the maximum-security ward a Buttner NC penitentiary. Here, Jesse spent his days drawing in his cell, and soon other inmates came asking him for portraits. Artists, he says, “are the only individuals who can make something tangible to send to loved ones. But the artwork and the resulting conversations also humanized them to me and me to them.”

After this year Jesse was transferred to a medium-security facility in Fairton, New Jersey, where he spent twelve-hour days for three years working on his largest work, Apokaluptein. Using prison bed sheets obtained from a friend in the laundry in exchange for stamps, Jesse transferred images from newspapers with hair gel ink, then adding his own figures as overlay. Each sheet was then smuggled out. “I never saw the entire piece together until I was released. I just kept the overall image in my head.”

"Everything about the federal prison system is designed to grind you into hopelessness.” Art helped him survive.


An Installation by Jesse Krimes

February 1st - March 26, 2017


Anita Alvin Nilert: Curator, Art Dialogues

A graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, with an MBA from Columbia University, Anita has been active in the international artworld for over 30 years as art dealer, art consultant, artist's agent, editions publisher, curator, and developer of online art initiatives. After a marketing career at American Express Financial Services, she pursued her love of art; working with renowned international art dealer Jan Eric von Lowenadler, and master's studies at Christie's and at NYU. She founded dep,art,ment, leading Swedish publisher of artist's editions, curators, art consultants and artists' agency for over 10 years, as well as online ventures. Anita is an active board member of Konstig Books, Scandinavia's leading art bookseller, where she spearheaded online e-commerce and crowdfunding campaigns, and of alt_break art fair for social justice, providing contemporary art programing through partnerships with local, and community-based nonprofits. Anita is also a permanent board member of the Hans von Kantzow Foundation, a family foundation to fund research and advances in medicine, and to support global health initiatives. She speaks 7 languages, has lived and worked abroad extensively, and is dedicated to bringing art for human rights to a wider audience to contribute to meaningful change.


Support for the Art Dialogues is being provided by a generous gift from the Hans von Kantzow Foundation.


Global School on Health Rights Litigation

Organized by the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and the O'Neill Institute, this one-week intensive course offers participants an opportunity to develop specialist-level knowledge in relation to litigating health-related rights at the national, regional, and international levels.

During the course, globally renowned experts will lecture on a range topics, including: sexual and reproductive health and rights; rights issues arising in health-care settings; palliative care; approaches to health-care rationing and factors to consider in assessing the equity impacts of judgments; access to medicines and intellect.

Human Rights Ted Talk (Spanish)

Human Rights Ted Talk (Spanish) on Vimeo.