International Conference on Health Rights in Global Historical Perspective

17-18 February 2011, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | Organisers: Dr Alex Mold (LSHTM), Dr David Reubi (KCL) and Professor Virginia Berridge (LSHTM) | Funding: Wellcome Trust.

The idea that individuals have rights within the context of health has a long, convoluted history. The right to health was amongst the ‘rights of man’ established during the French Revolution, and patients’ rights and doctors’ duties were of concern in places such as England from the eighteenth century onwards. Rights to health care became incorporated within European welfare states during the twentieth century. More recently, the language of human rights has been increasingly used in the field of global health. But, as contemporary debates over who has a right to health care in the USA and elsewhere demonstrate, rights and health remain disputed notions.

How and when did rights enter into discussions about health? What does it mean to talk about rights in health? What types of knowledge, insitutions and practices make discourses about rights and health possible? Who is and who is not the subject of rights? What different health issues have been construed as rights problems? Sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, this two-day conference brought together historians, anthropologists, geographers, sociologists and political scientists to explore these and other questions about health rights in different historical and geographical settings. Papers covered a range of places, including Europe, North America, East Asia, Africa and Australasia, but they also considered how health rights operate at a global level through transnational organisations such as the World Health Organisation. Many of the best papers presented at the conference can be found in Assembling Health Rights in Global Perspective: Genealogies and Anthropologies, a collection co-edited by Alex Mold and David Reubi and published by Routledge in 2013.

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