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Human Rights and Health

In 1990, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) launched an initiative designed to restructure psychiatric care throughout the Americas. At the heart of the initiative was the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons with mental disability. Soon after, PAHO gathered legislators, mental health professionals, human rights leaders, and organizations of persons with disability to advance mental health care reforms throughout the Region. Participants issued the Declaration of Caracas.

Since then, PAHO has used a human rights approach in its technical collaboration in a number of areas.  For instance, PAHO has conducted capacity building activities with the collaboration of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS), promoting and protecting the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and other related human rights of persons living with HIV, disability, mental health problems; in the context of the health of indigenous peoples, older persons, young people and the exposure to second hand tobacco smoke, among others.  PAHO's strategies on health and human rights have as an objective the dissemination and promotion of the international human rights norms and standards among community leaders, health service users, advocacy group members, ombudspersons, medical professionals, and government workers and decision-makers, among others.

PAHO, as the Regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Inter-American specialized organization for health, has a central role to play in promoting and protecting the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and other related human rights.  Basically, PAHO seeks to ensure health as a right in a manner consistent with the Constitution of the WHO, relevant international human rights treaties and the National Constitutions of PAHO Member States.  In 1946 the Constitution of the WHO recognized that  "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition".