Bringing rights into the fight against NCDs

A new report out of USC uncovers the ways human rights intersect with the world’s leading cause of death: non-communicable disease.


Released in November by the Program on Global Health & Human Rights at the USC Institute for Global Health, the report follows up on the May 2013 USC conference “Roles and Responsibilities in Realizing Health and Human Rights in the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases.”

With funding from the Merck Company Foundation, the meeting and report emerged from recognition that links between health and human rights are being increasingly documented in areas such as HIV/AIDS and children’s health but these links hadn’t been clearly established in tackling illnesses like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, which classify as non-communicable diseases, or NCDs.

International attention to NCDs has grown, most notably since the United Nations convened a high-level meeting on the subject in 2011. As the enormity of the NCD-related health and financial burden becomes clear, many fear it threatens progress towards the 2015 UN Millennium Development Goals to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and environmental degradation.

Building upon this growing concern, the report highlights a range of areas where human rights and NCDs overlap—for example, the effects of inequality and discrimination in reducing access to quality medicines.

The report emphasizes ways a human rights framework can ensure government accountability in preventing and controlling NCDs. It also underscores the need for more research, a stimulated political agenda and an informed and active civil society.

The meeting participants—an international array of academics, activists and government representatives—agreed the report is an important jumping-off point and call to action for further research and training.

Download the report »