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

PAHO Commission meets in Trinidad and Tobago to collect and share information on causes of health inequalities in the Americas

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Commission on Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas met in January with leaders from government and civil society to better understand the factors that lead to health inequalities in the Americas and to find ways to address them. Alicia Ely Yamin discussed linkages between human rights and health and how a focus on human rights could be incorporated into the final recommendations of the Commission.

Health and Human Rights: Teaching Pack

This teaching pack on health and human rights was developed by the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard University in collaboration with human rights lawyer Alicia Ely Yamin. It introduces students to this interdisciplinary topic through a series of three videos as well as an educator guide and supporting materials.

2017 Report Launch: Transformative Accountability for Adolescents

On Monday, 18 September, the 2017 Report of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Accountability Panel (IAP)--Transformative Accountability for Adolescents -will be launched at the UN General Assembly in New York. The IAP is mandated by the UN Secretary-General to conduct an annual independent review of progress of the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016-2030. The report’s key findings and recommendations will be presented by the IAP Co-Chairs joined by a high-level and distinguished panel of dignitaries.



Call for Papers on Judicialization of health rights in Latin America


While countries across the world seek to make progress towards universal health coverage, they must balance two essential ethical imperatives that may conflict: to set national spending priorities fairly and efficiently; and to safeguard the right to health. This Special Section will examine the equilibrium between those two potentially differing imperatives in the context of Latin America. It will focus on the judicialization of health rights, the role of priority setting, different research methodologies and the measurement of impact beyond health outcomes.

Publication Details

The Health and Human Rights Journal is calling for papers to be published in a special section in June 2018 on Judicialization of health rights in Latin America. The special section will be edited by Octavio Ferraz, Reader in Transnational Law at King’s College London and Alicia Ely Yamin, Program Director of the Health and Human Rights Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

Health and Human Rights Journal is a peer-reviewed, open access journal under the editorship of Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer. It is published twice yearly by Harvard University Press, with new issues released in June and December. There are no publication fees unless authors can use open access publication grants.

Paper Topics

  • Research methodologies and assessments of impacts beyond health outcomes
  • Social movements, discourse, political, symbolic, individual impacts of judicialization of health rights in Latin America.
  • Methodological challenges related to the availability of information and statistics.
  • Divergence of research methods and its impact on the assessment of health outcomes.
  • How to evaluate non-health outcomes of judicialization in Latin America
  • Interpretations of the right to health and the role of priority-setting in the pursuit of the full realization of health rights
  • Socio-economic background analysis and multilevel/multidisciplinary studies.
  • Distributional benefits and geospatial studies.
  • Sociological analysis of non-litigating individuals.
  • Criteria for budget allocation in differing political and socio-cultural contexts: the role of prioritization strategies.
  • Need for accountability, transparency, monitoring and compliance of health rights.
  • Health rights judicial remedies structuring in Latin America
  • Institutional capacity and its effects on the enforcement of judicial remedies.
  • Power asymmetries in health policy-making.
  • Country-based studies on institutional participation on health systems.
  • Impacts of the exclusion from health systems and the need for re-thinking judicial remedies.

Submission Details

  • Papers must be submitted by 31 October 2017
  • Papers have a maximum word length of 7,000 words, including references.
  • Author guidelines are available on the website:

Questions about this special section can be directed to Octavio Ferraz,; Alicia Ely Yamin,; or Carmel Williams, Executive Editor, Health and Human Rights Journal at


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.

Video of the Art Dialogue at Georgetown's main campus with artist, Jesse Krimes, Alicia Ely Yamin and Marc L.Howard on February 23.


An Installation by Jesse Krimes

February 1st - March 26, 2017

In conjunction with the Art Dialogue, there was an exhibition of Jesse Krimes work, "Purgatory" at the Georgetown University Art and Art History Department's Spagnuolo Gallery from February 1- March 26.

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.