The Health and Human Rights Priority Theme was launched at the 2012 PHRGE Institute on Human Rights and the Social Determinants of Health. The two-day Institute was co-sponsored by the Northeastern University's Program on Health Policy and Law and was convened to explore ways that the human rights-based and public health advocacy communities could collaborate on addressing health outcome disparities through action on the social determinants of health (SDOH) here in the United States. The SDOH include access to nutritious food, early education, secure housing, clean water, adequate sanitation, decent work and universal health care. If these social conditions do, indeed, determine health care outcomes, then realizing other ESC rights will improve health outcomes. The integration of human right and public health perspectives promises to empower activists in both areas. The PHRGE Institute was designed to bring these two communities together to discuss advocacy approaches that might build on the strengths of the two disciplines. To learn more about the Institute, click here to access our institute page.

PHRGE’s Right to Health Program also offers current students and NUSL graduates the opportunity to engage in research in this field.  During the 2012-2013 academic year, the Program hosted three JD Research interns who explored various issues relating to human rights and the social determinants of health.


Current Research

Currently, the Right to Health Program is hosting Sonia Haerizadeh ‘12  as a post-graduate research fellow.  Her project, entitled “Exploring the Use of Litigation as a Tool to Address Forced/Coerced Sterilization of Women Living with HIV: Accessing the Impact in Namibia,” seeks to understand the broader impact of litigation on the issue of forced/coerced sterilization of women living with HIV in L.M and Others v. Republic of Namibia. More specifically, Sonia will research the impact the case had on international and domestic regulations governing informed consent, the reframing of forced/coerced sterilization as a human rights issue, as well as media attention and funding towards the issue. 

The Right to Health Program is also hosting Seda Akay Onur, who is a 2013 graduate of NUSL’s LLM Program. She is conducting research on the potential conflicts between rights to health and to intellectual property. Seda’s research conceives of IP as a human right and places these two human rights in a conflict of rights framework. This study aims to develop a counter-argument to the claims in support of strong IP regimes, through the identification and use of a mutually agreeable language. Specifically, Seda is exploring the limitations on the right to intellectual property within a human rights framework.


Health Care is a Human Right Campaign: A Project with the Vermont Workers’ Center

PHRGE Associate Director Mariah McGill has investigated and documented the Vermont Workers’ Center’s “Health Care is a Human Right Campaign.” This four-year campaign achieved ground-breaking results in May 2011 when the Vermont legislature adopted a bill that provides a framework for universal, single-payer health care in Vermont based on human rights principles. McGill continues to document the VWC campaign and Vermont's efforts to create a human rights-based health care system.


Project on the Right to Health Care in the USA

PHRGE Senior Fellow Gillian MacNaughton and Mariah McGill embarked on a project examining the right to health as currently recognized in the United States. Following up on her presentation at the University of Connecticut in April 2011, Ms. MacNaughton published an article in the Clearinghouse Review September/October 2011 issue analyzing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from a human rights perspective. McGill has continued to monitor the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from a human rights perspective. McGill uses a human rights framework to analyze the strengths and failures of the bill as written as well as the issues raised by its implementation.