Professor Laura Ferguson Contributes to Improving Children’s Health and Human Rights Globally

Laura Ferguson, PH.D., MSC, M.A.

Via USC News:

The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on March 23 that brought the UN one step closer to securing children’s health-related rights across the globe. Laura Ferguson, assistant professor in the USC Department of Preventive Medicine and USC Program on Global Health & Human Rights, played a key role in the technical, political and practical processes surrounding the resolution and other related efforts.This work started over a year ago when Ferguson began providing technical assistance to the World Health Organization and other partners as they coordinated research to help define the obligations of states and other actors regarding children’s right to health.

The output of this process was a “General Comment” on children’s right to health. Issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, this is an authoritative interpretation of this right and clarifies priority areas for government action across a range of topics such as child mortality, nutrition and access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for adolescents.

Reflecting growing interest in this area, the UN Human Rights Council discussed children’s right to health on March 7. The talks were guided by a technical report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that Ferguson also assisted in producing.

“A child rights-based approach to health emphasizes the need to eliminate exclusion and reduce social disparities in health between different groups of children,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said at the meeting.

A few weeks later the council adopted—by consensus—the political resolution that calls on governments to protect children’s right to health. The resolution marks a turning point in ensuring support to children in a number of areas including access to information on sex and substance abuse as well as designating violence against children as a violation of their right to health.

Focused on moving human rights beyond the rhetoric of technical and political documents, Ferguson is now concentrating on ensuring these global commitments make an impact on the ground. She has helped lead two regional workshops—one in the Philippines and the other in Nicaragua—that brought together government officials, non-governmental organizations and adolescents to build their capacity to implement these commitments.

“It is exciting to see how the General Comment and the Human Rights Council Resolution, which are global level frameworks, can be used as practical hands-on resources to make a real difference to people’s lives by guiding health laws, policies and practice at country and community levels,” she said, adding that she plans to continue supporting these processes to ensure this work will continue locally and nationally.