Health and Human Rights


This project aims to advance interdisciplinary dialogue and research on health and human rights through collaboration between physicians, philosophers, lawyers, judges, medical ethicists, students, and patient advocacy organizations. Through ongoing workshops, trainings, and conferences since 2013, the project has inspired important discussions about the necessity of a human rights based approach to health care in China, Haiti, India, Malawi, Uganda and the United States.

Specific topics have included the right to access to medications and basic care, stigmatization of patients with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and the ethics of clinical trials, as well as the development of human rights-based medical school curriculum.

Participating Faculty 

Daniel Brudney (Philosophy), Brian Citro (Law School), Susan Gzesh (The College), Dr. Evan Lyon (Pritzker School of Medicine and Biological Sciences Division), Kaushik Sunder Rajan (Anthropology), Haun Saussy (Comparative Literature), Dr. Renslow Sherer (Pritzker School of Medicine and Biological Sciences Division)


Medical Education in China

The Pozen Center and its Health and Human Rights Project are leading a broad medical education reform effort in Hubei Province and across China at the undergraduate and the graduate level that is firmly based on the principles of health and human rights. The Wuhan Medical Education Reform (WUMER) initiative follows a 5 year partnership between the University of Chicago, the Hubei Province CDC, and the Wuhan University Medical School (WUMS) to scale up antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The project involves University of Chicago faculty and medical students in teaching exchanges with Wuhan University, as well as a modified curriculum from the University of Chicago Medical School that was adopted for use in China. The WUMER Project, and the Departments of Medicine, Surgery, and Family Medicine have been leaders in the development of residency training in China since 2014. In collaboration with the Peking Union Medical Center Hospital and the National Health and Family Planning Commission, these partners have convened a national symposium on residency training for the past three years to define the standards for modern residents in China. In 2015, this effort included the University of Chicago Center in Hong Kong. In 2014 and 2015, the WUMER Project expanded its work to include residency training as part of this initiative, and placed a Global Health Fellow from the University of Chicago, Dr. Jon Lio, in Wuhan to lead the residency program training.

The Rights to Privacy and Confidentiality for TB Patients in India: A Qualitative Study in Patna and Mumbai, India

University of Chicago faculty Brian Citro (Law), Dr. Arindam Nandi (Medicine) and Dr. Kiran Pandey (Medicine) will conduct a qualitative study to measure the extent to which concerns about privacy and confidentiality, and related issues of stigma and discrimination, impact TB patient choices in India. The human rights and policy implications are to promote recognition and protection of the rights to privacy, confidentiality, and nondiscrimination for people with TB in national TB policies, legislation, and judicial decisions in India and elsewhere. The Global Fund has committed hundreds of millions of dollars for human rights programming for these diseases, but is desperately seeking research that demonstrates the health impact of protecting human rights. Our study aims to begin addressing these questions in the area of TB. The study will be conducted in coordination with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Public Health Foundation of India, and Sambodhi (an Indian research analytics organization).

Global Advocacy Efforts: A Rights-based Approach to Tuberculosis

Health & Human Rights faculty play a leading role in a growing global movement promoting a rights-based approach to TB by participaing in the following projects:

World Health Organization, TB Ethics, and Human Rights Guidance Expert Group Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland (July 2016): the purpose of this meeting is to revise and update the WHO guidance on TB ethics and human rights. The guidance is used by national TB programs around the world to design and implement TB policy.

TB, Human Rights, and the Law Judicial Workshops in Nigeria, Russia, and Latin America (2016-17): Health and Human Rights faculty successfully designed and conducted two judicial workshops in New Delhi, India (December 2015) and Nairobi, Kenya (June 2016) in collaboration with local partners. The workshops bring together judges, lawyers, doctors, researchers, people with TB and TB survivors from the region in order to sensitize the judiciary on TB and human rights. The aim is to promote an understanding the rights-based approach to TB among members of the judiciary in order to impact case law on TB. Additional workshops are planned for Nigeria, Russia and Latin America, with support from the Stop TB Partnership, USAID and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

TB Law Reform Consultation in Beijing, China (March 2017): in September 2015, Health & Human Rights faculty held stakeholder meetings in Beijing, Hong Kong, Wuhan and Shanghai, China to discuss a rights-based approach to TB, with support from the Pozen Center and the University of Chicago Centers in Beijing and Hong Kong. Pozen Center participating faculty propose a meeting in Beijing at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing with Chinese stakeholders and global experts to consider TB law reform in China in line with a rights-based approach, with expected support from the University of Chicago Center in Beijing.

Select Past Activities 

Lecture: HIV and Human Rights / The New Metrics of Human Rights Interventions and Outcome Research
October 19, 2016 // Chicago

The lunchtime lecture was presented by Deborah L. Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator & U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy and Director of the President’s Emergency Programs for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). View webpage

Residency: Global Health and Human Rights with Anand Grover
November 9-12, 2015 // Chicago

The Pozen Center facilitated a week-long series of events with Anand Grover, a human rights lawyer based in India and the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health (2008-2014). As UN Special Rapporteur, Grover worked closely wth governments, civil society, and community groups promoting a human rights-based approach to health.

This residency was presented by the Pozen Center, Law School, the Norman Wait Harris Fund at the Center for International Studies, with additional support from the Univerisity of Chicago Institute of Politics, the University of Chicago Center for Global Health, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and Northwestern Global Health Studies. View webpage

Workshop: Social Medicine and Human Rights in Health Professional Education
October 30, 2015 // Chicago

This workshop convened a group of thought-leaders currently teaching social medicine and human rights in order to identify best practices and develop a strategy for developing training all health professional students. View webpage

Conference: Communication, Ethics, and Professionalism in Medical Education Reforms in China
March 21, 2015 // Peking University Health Sciences Center in Beijing

The conference was sponsored by the University of Chicago Center in Beijing, the Institute for Medical Humanities at Peking University, the Wuhan University Medical Education Reform Project at the University of Chicago, and the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. 

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together medical educators and humanities faculty from across China to discuss new trends and developments in medical school curricula related to communication, ethics, and professionalism. Ethics teaching in medical schools is in an early stage of development worldwide.

By partnering with three of the leading medical schools in China, (Beijing University, Wuhan University, and Guangzhou University), the project disseminated progressive thinking in medical education in ethics and professionalism with a strong human rights basis. The participants in the workshop will incorporate the concepts and training materials into their own medical school curricula.

Conference: Developing a Rights-Based Approach to TB in India
December 5-6, 2014 // University of Chicago Center in Delhi

Supported by a grant from the University of Chicago Center in Delhi as well as the Pozen Center, this conference was the first step in a long-term project to promote the development and implementation of a rights-based approach to preventing and treating tuberculosis in India, home to a quarter of the global TB cases.

Organized principally by the University of Chicago Lecturer in Law Brian Citro, Acting Associate Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, participants included University of Chicago doctors Evan Lyon and Kiran Pandey and a U.K.-based health policy advisor, Mihir Mankad, to organize the event at the University’s new Center in Delhi.

The conference brought together approximately 70 experts from 10 countries, including lawyers, doctors, researchers, human rights activists, government officials, and former TB patients. Read news story.

Workshop: Teaching Human Rights in Global Medical Education
October 13, 2014 // Chicago

This interactive workshop addressed current efforts, best practices, and gaps in teaching human rights within global medical education. Presentations highlighted experiences in China, Haiti, Malawi, Uganda, and the US. View webpage. 

Symposium: Is Health Care a Human Right?
October 10-11, 2014 // Chicago

This two-day symposium brought interdisciplinary scholars together to ask first whether there is a human right to healthcare. Symposium participants explored how to define a right to healthcare and then who has the obligation to provide and protect this right. Organized by Professor Daniel Brudney (Philosophy). 

The symposium was also supported by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society and the Franke Institute for the Humanities. View webpage.

Related Courses 

Health and Human Rights | HMRT 21400 (offered every year)
Dr. Renslow Sherer and Dr. Evan Lyon (Pritzker School of Medicine and Biological Sciences Division) 

This course attempts to define health and health care in the context of human rights theory and practice. Does a “right to health” include a “right to health care"? We delineate health care financing in the United States and compare these systems with those of other nations. We explore specific issues of health and medical practice as they interface in areas of global conflict: torture, landmines, and poverty. Readings and discussions explore social determinants of health: housing, educational institutions, employment, and the fraying of social safety nets. We study vulnerable populations: foster children, refugees, and the mentally ill. Lastly, does a right to health include a right to pharmaceuticals? What does the big business of drug research and marketing mean for our own country and the world?

Health Care and the Limits of State Action | HMRT 28602 (offered every year)
Dr. Evan Lyon (Pritzker School of Medicine and Biological Sciences Division) and Haun Saussy (Comparative Literature)

In a time of great human mobility and weakening state frontiers, epidemic disease is able to travel fast and far, mutate in response to treatment, and defy the institutions invented to keep it under control: quarantine, the cordon sanitaire, immunization, and the management of populations. Public health services in many countries find themselves at a loss in dealing with these outbreaks of disease, a deficiency to which NGOs emerge as a response (an imperfect one to be sure). Through a series of readings in anthropology, sociology, ethics, medicine, and political science, we will attempt to reach an understanding of this crisis of both epidemiological technique and state legitimacy, and to sketch out options.