My Health, My Right

Reported by Tess

Published on Friday, April 5th, 2024

Accommodation Human Rights Mental Health Physical Health

My Health, My Right

Written by Tess

Published on Friday, April 5th, 2024


Human Rights

Mental Health

Physical Health

Around the world, the right to health of millions is increasingly coming under threat.

Diseases and disasters loom large as causes of death and disability.

Conflicts are devastating lives, causing death, pain, hunger and psychological distress.

The burning of fossil fuels is simultaneously driving the climate crisis and taking away our right to breathe clean air, with indoor and outdoor air pollution claiming a life every 5 seconds.

The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has found that at least 140 countries recognize health as a human right in their constitution. Yet countries are not passing and putting into practice laws to ensure their populations are entitled to access health services. This underpins the fact that at least 4.5 billion people — more than half of the world’s population — were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021.

To address these types of challenges, the theme for World Health Day 2024 is ‘My health, my right’.

World Health Organization for World Health Day 2024


Rights are something we are very conscious of at Listen Up!

When funding was granted to Groundswell for Listen Up! from Comic Relief, it was decided there would be three different outputs – community reporting, peer-led research and rights-based training. From the beginning we have been aware of the promotion and explanation of rights for people experiencing homelessness and health inequalities.

This is why for the last 18 months I’ve been squirreling away at the creation, development and production of materials around the topic of rights to good health and housing. Multiple questionnaires have been distributed to Groundswell staff and volunteers. There have been countless meetings and documents created to try and unpick this topic. We incorporated questions into our research to determine what rights people we spoke to were aware of.

And I’ve read material on it. A lot of material.

The conclusion I’ve reached is that rights are fundamental and yet are fundamentally complicated. It’s hard to grasp what they are and how to apply them. They are slippery building blocks. Lego in jelly.

They form the frame for how we should expect to be treated and guide us to how we should treat each other.

There are rights for almost every critical part of life – including around our health and housing.

Knowing what we’re entitled to can help us to identify when things are wrong and give us the right language to address the issues.

The slipperiness comes from the different ways our rights are enforced in legislation and whether there are tangible consequences if they are not followed.

The UN recognises access to adequate housing to be a human right. We know from our own experiences and from the people we work with that this is hard to enforce in the UK, where there isn’t sufficient adequate housing and steps can be seen to address the deficit.#

In health, we have the NHS Constitution which lists all the rights we can expect from healthcare. This document makes it easier to understand but it’s 87 pages long. If you are facing inequality and want to challenge how you are being treated how likely are you to look up this document and sift through it for the information you need and then work out how to apply it?

If I wasn’t being paid to do just that, I know I wouldn’t.

And this brings us back to the challenge faced by Listen Up!, and others, where we are trying to empower confidence in those most likely to experience ill-treatment.

I think we may have created a way which can help. In the coming weeks a pocket guide to healthcare rights will be published alongside some bite sized e-learning which takes some of our healthcare rights and explores them in an interactive format. We will also have a list of resources to take some of the internet search headache away when trying to find up-to-date information which makes sense. And finally, workshops for people experiencing homelessness and working in homelessness services.

Our training and resources will give people the knowledge and skills needed to make decisions about their own healthcare and housing. The right tools to grasp on to those slippery building blocks.

Together we can understand our rights and have the confidence to apply them.

Written by Tess

Hi I'm Tess, I work for Groundswell and have a long history of mental illness. During a particularly bad patch I sofa surfed for a while. I have a very opinionated cat and live near Manchester, although I'm formerly from Stoke-on-Trent.

Read all of Tess's articles


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