Today, we have a guest post from Alicia Ely Yamin, author of Power, Suffering, and the Struggle for Dignity: Human Rights Frameworks for Health and Why They Matter. Yamin's book explores what human rights-based approaches (HRBAs) to health and development mean and why they matter, providing a solid foundation for comprehending what a human rights framework for health implies and the potential for social transformation it entails. Recently, Yamin made the decision to donate all future royalties from the book to the organization Partners in Health, where she serves as a Senior Advisor on Human Rights, and in today's post, she explains what inspired her to make this decision.
Power, Suffering and the Struggle for Dignity is an intensely personal book in many ways because it tracks my professional career, lived in many countries across different regions, in applying human rights to health and social justice. When I was a student in the 1990s, Professor Jonathan Mann, at the then-Harvard School of Public Health envisioned fostering a broad movement that would bridge the fields of health and human rights through both scholarship and advocacy, in order to challenge the status quo in public health. And arguably no single organization has done more than Partners in Health to challenge orthodoxies not just in medicine and public health, but also in human rights praxis in relation to health by refusing to accept that some people’s lives matter less.
I feel deeply privileged to work with Partners in Health, which has a long history of anti-colonialism and a preferential option for poor and marginalized people, where we believe this time of radical upheaval permits an opening to promote much bolder visions for greater justice in the political economy of global health,
The current COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the need to rethink our commitment to universal publicly-funded health systems (public health and health care), global aid architectures and governance, and the structural drivers of heath inequalities within and across societies. If health is largely socially constructed, as is the view of both social medicine and human rights, it can be reconstructed and democratized. And human rights should be central to that effort.
Assigning the royalties from Power, Suffering and the Struggle for Dignity to Partners in Health reflects my view that, to paraphrase bell hooks, theory should be a laboratory for practice. Scholarship on why human rights frameworks for health matter should support meaningful action to make them matter—in this pandemic and beyond.