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How Our Founding Commitment to Health as a Human Right Is Present Today

Posted on November 30, 2023

By Interim Dean Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH

At Dornsife, we often mention our founding commitment to health as a human right. How does that show up in our work today? While not comprehensive, I’ll share a couple of key examples.

Gina Lovasi headshot

In our signature events and initiatives: This Fall we kicked off our Population Health Spotlight series, which this year is unified by the theme of Health Equity and LGBTQ+ Health.

While some may not see this as obviously connected to human rights, I’m reminded of an articulation by Ana Diez Roux from a few years ago that our understanding of health as a human right at our school includes an commitment to pursuing freedom from discrimination.

However, an even clearer connection is through a lecture series and an initiative named for our founding dean. The Jonathan Mann Global Health and Human Rights Initiative is multifaceted, but I’ll highlight that it includes our continued partnership to support the Health and Human Rights Journal as an open access publication that does not rely on required author publication charges. Joe Amon, Director of our school’s Office of Global Health was appointed this Fall to become this journal’s Editor-in-Chief.

In what and how we teach: Human rights feature prominently in courses across undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels such as

  • Introduction to Health & Human Rights
  • Health and Human Rights Research Methods
  • Food Security, Human Rights and Public Health

Protecting human rights is also central to our degree programs. For example, one of the five competencies for the MPH in Community Health and Prevention prepares students to

  • Advocate for human rights-based values in public health research, practice, and policy

Of course, these and other examples explicitly and prominently using the words human rights within formal education. These are complemented by other ways that we infuse human rights into our school environment, and reach out to connect with community members in ways that equips people to recognize, claim, and defend their rights, such as through

Importantly, instructors throughout our school are also infusing their teaching practice with approaches that are inclusive, including by anticipating the need for accessible and equity-minded learning opportunities.

Thank you to all who contribute to these and other ways of bringing renewed meaning to our work in pursuit of and recognition of health as a human right. This journey is ongoing, and as ever we have more work to do together to fully live up to our aspirations.