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Public Health. A Right or a Privilege?

Public health is an issue that has been the subject of debate and reflection throughout the history of mankind, both for politicians and for every medical association working for the health of the people.

In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, the question of whether public health is a fundamental right or a privilege has become even more relevant. It explores this question from a variety of perspectives, analyzing access to health care, social determinants of health, equity of care, and the challenges facing public health today.

Health as a Human Right

Historical Background

The recognition of health as a fundamental human right dates back to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaimed in Article 25 that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for his health”. This declaration laid the foundation for the creation of public health systems worldwide and established the principle that health is an inalienable right of all people.

What are the ethical justifications?

From an ethical perspective, the idea that health is a human right is based on the premise that all people should be treated with equality and dignity. Denying access to health care to certain groups of people is tantamount to violating their fundamental rights. In addition, the promotion of public health benefits society as a whole by reducing the spread of disease and improving the quality of life of the general population.

Social and Economic Benefits

Universal access to health care and the promotion of public health also have significant economic and social benefits. Investment in public health programs can prevent disease outbreaks, reduce the burden of chronic diseases, and improve the productivity of the population, which in turn contributes to economic growth and social well-being.

Barriers to Access to Medical Care

Inequalities in Access

Despite the recognition of health as a human right, many people around the world face significant barriers to accessing health care. Inequalities in access to health care are evident in the lack of health coverage, high treatment costs and geographic location, leaving rural and marginalized populations at a disadvantage.

Health Care Costs

One of the biggest barriers to accessing medical relief is the high cost of medical services and medicines. In many countries, medical care is an expensive service that can leave people in debt or even bankrupt them. This raises the question of whether quality medical care is truly accessible to all or whether it has become a privilege reserved for those who can afford it.

The problem of social inequalities

Social inequalities also play an important role in determining who has access to health care. People living in poverty or belonging to marginalized groups face greater obstacles in accessing quality health care. This reflects the intersection between public health and social equity issues.

Social Determinants of Health

Socioeconomic Factors

The social determinants of health are the conditions under which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. These factors, which include income level, education, employment, and housing, have a significant impact on people’s health. Inequities in these social determinants can lead to health disparities and challenge equity in health care.

Access to Adequate Housing

Access to adequate housing is a key factor in determining a person’s health. People without housing or living in substandard conditions are at increased risk for disease and mental health problems. This highlights the importance of addressing housing issues as an integral part of public health.

Equity Challenges

Despite efforts to promote equity in health care, numerous challenges persist. Racial and ethnic disparities in access to health care are an ongoing concern, and ethnic minorities often receive lower quality medical treatment. This raises questions about whether health care is truly equitable for all population groups.

Health Care Discrimination

Discrimination in health care is a real problem that affects many people around the world. People with disabilities, and other marginalized groups often face discrimination by health care professionals, which can lead to unequal access to care and poorer health outcomes.

What are the Current Challenges in Public Health?

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of public health in modern society. The rapid spread of the virus and the response of different countries have shed light on the need for accessible and quality health care for all. The lack of preparedness and coordination in the response to the pandemic has highlighted the importance of investing in strong public health systems.

Climate Change and Health

Climate change is another major public health challenge. As the climate changes, new health risks emerge, such as more intense heat waves, prolonged droughts, and extreme weather events. Addressing these problems requires collective action and investment in climate change adaptation and mitigation.


Ultimately, the question of whether public health is a right or a privilege is complex and multifaceted. While there is a global consensus around the recognition of health as a fundamental human right and many medical organizations and non profit organization for mental health do their part in this, the reality is that many people still face significant barriers to accessing quality health care. Inequities in access to care, social determinants of health, and challenges in health care equity raise questions about the full realization of this right.

To achieve truly equitable and accessible public health for all, these issues need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. This involves not only providing quality health care, but also addressing the underlying social inequities that influence people’s health. In addition, a continued commitment to pandemic preparedness and climate change mitigation is required to protect the health of future generations.

Public health must be a shared goal of society as a whole, and it is the responsibility of governments, health institutions and civil society to work together to ensure that health is a fundamental right and not a privilege reserved for a privileged few. Only through a joint effort and a firm commitment to equity in health care can we hope to achieve a healthier and fairer society for all.



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