The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) offers the world an important opportunity to both acknowledge, and benefit from the inextricable links between human health and sustainable development.
Good health contributes to the achievement of sustainability goals
WHO estimates that 150 million people suffer severe financial hardship each year because they fall ill, use health services and have to pay for them on the spot. Many have to sell assets or go into debt to meet the payments. 100 million people are pushed below the poverty line for these reasons. Lack of access to health services impoverishes people because they cannot work; using health services impoverishes people because they cannot pay.
Protecting people from catastrophic expenditure and ensuring access to essential services through universal health coverage is thus an essential element of any strategy to reduce poverty and build resilient societies. Health has the potential to increase economic development, improve educational opportunities, empower women, reduce impoverishment and foster social cohesion.
Health is a beneficiary of sustainable development
A healthy environment is a prerequisite for good health. Reductions in air, water and chemical pollution can prevent up to one quarter of the overall global burden of disease. Cleaner energy policies could halve the number of childhood deaths from pneumonia and substantially reduce the one million people who die each year from chronic lung disease caused by indoor air pollution. Replacing biomass or coal stoves with cleaner stoves and fuels could help improve the health of up to three billion of the world’s poorest people.
As the world seeks to address the challenges posed by ageing populations, growing cities, increasingly mobile populations, competition for scarce natural resources, financial uncertainty, and a changing climate, it is no longer viable to think of solutions in terms of individual sectors. This calls for a greater policy coherence: for a move to address not only health in all policies, but environment in all policies too.
Health is a way of measuring the impact of sustainable development policies
Monitoring progress towards sustainable development means being able to evaluate the economic, environmental and social dimensions of policy. Investment in health alone cannot solve the problems of sovereign debt, volatile food prices or the environmental impact of climate change. But for those aiming to promote a fairer, greener and more sustainable approach to globalization, people’s health remains vitally important as a measure of the impact of policies in all these areas. Not only are health outcomes readily measurable, health concerns are immediate, personal and local.
The original Rio Declaration of 1992 described “human beings as the central concern of sustainable development … living a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature”. It is vital that those attending Rio+20 reaffirm this fact, and take concrete action to optimize the interactions between human health and sustainable development.
2). WHO gives countries tools to help stop abuse of people with mental health conditions
Note for the media
15 June 2012 | Geneva – WHO urges countries to protect the rights and dignity of people with mental health conditions as it launches a new tool for countries to assess and eventually stop, these violations. The WHO QualityRights Tool Kit aims to ensure that quality of care and human rights standards are put in place in mental health and social care facilities around the world.
“Poor quality services and human rights violations in mental health and social care facilities are still an everyday occurrence in many places, especially in low- and middle-income countries,” says Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “Decrepit buildings, overcrowding and unhygienic living conditions are a reality for many people living in psychiatric institutions. In many facilities, people are exposed to violence, abuse, harmful treatment and neglect. Many are locked up against their will, overmedicated, put in seclusion cells or restrained, sometimes for years.”
Key quality standards for all facilities
To address this, WHO has developed the WHO QualityRights Tool Kit – assessing and improving quality and human rights in mental health and social care. The tool kit, which is based on the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, establishes key standards that need to be met in all facilities. These include the need for:
living conditions to be safe and hygienic and the social environment to be conducive to recovery;
the provision of evidence-based care for their mental and physical health condition, on the basis of free and informed consent;
gearing services towards enhancing people’s autonomy enabling them to engage in their own recovery plans;
reporting and halting all inhuman treatment; and
linking health services with employment, education, social and housing services in order to promote independent living in the community for mental health service users.
“The Tool Kit has been developed with major inputs from people from civil society organizations which specialize in mental and psychosocial disabilities, as well as other mental health and human rights experts, which is why it is so comprehensive and practical,” explains Dr Michelle Funk, who led the WHO team which developed the Tool Kit. “It can be applied in low-, middle- and high-resource settings. It is unique because it can be implemented in both inpatient and outpatient facilities and allows for a comparison between mental health and general health care services.”
Guidance on quality of care assessments and recommendations
In addition to establishing quality and human rights standards, the QualityRights Tool Kit provides specific guidance on how to conduct a comprehensive assessment of services, how to report findings and make appropriate recommendations to improve quality of care and human rights at the health facility and at national level.
The Tool Kit is a critical first step in a larger WHO QualityRights Project which aims to improve the quality of mental health care and human rights conditions in mental health and social care facilities. Future priorities will be to gather evidence on the state of mental health and social care facilities and use the tool to help address and correct deficiencies and research further means of improving conditions at the service level.
For more information please contact:
Dr Michelle Funk Coordinator, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department WHO, Geneva Telephone: +41 22 791 3855 Mobile: +41 79 475 5458 Email: [email protected]
Ms Natalie Drew Technical Officer, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department WHO, Geneva Telephone: +41 22 791 3206 Mobile: +41 78 654 2102 Email: [email protected]
Dr Shekhar Saxena Director, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department WHO, Geneva Telephone: +41 22 791 3625 Mobile: +41 79 308 9865 Email: [email protected]