World Health Day: Health for All, All the Time

Yesterday was World Health Day. For those of you who may not be familiar with the history of World Health Day, it is celebrated every year on April 7th with the purpose of bringing light to specific health issues.

Past topics, or “themes,” for World Health Day have included mental health, climate change, diabetes and many other health issues the world faces.

This year’s theme for World Health Day 2021 is a little more broad: Health for All. The theme highlights a need to address health inequalities globally, something that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

I found this year’s theme of health inequality interesting as I took a course last semester, Anthropology of Human Rights. In the class, we discussed how human rights are defined and discussed health as a human right. Before taking the course, hearing “health as a human right” made me think of issues surrounding access to healthcare in the United States. However, the course made me realize all of the intersecting forces that contribute to one’s “health” beyond healthcare— mental health, access to clean water and food, access to housing, healthy work environments, etc.

As I mentioned previously, my class often discussed how human rights are defined, but we also talked about how the human in human rights is defined. For those who consider health a human right, how is the human defined?Meaning, who enjoys rights while others don’t? With major health inequality in the United States, I think this is an important question to ask ourselves. Is the minimum wage fast-food service worker who works 40 hours a week “human” and thus deserving of the right to health? What about a “white collar” worker unable to find a job in the middle of a pandemic and without the health insurance tied to employment? There is a sense of “deservingness” in the United States: how “deserving” is a person of xyz right? Why do we (the United States) believe some people are deserving of healthcare and others aren’t?

This is something I encourage you to think about not only on World Health Day but every day as we work towards the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.