Human rights and the right to health in Latin America: the Two Faces of One Powerful Idea

Alicia Ines Stolkiner


During the past decade the discussion of human rights has reappeared in the field of health, replacing the technocratic approaches of the previous period which had centered on cost-effectiveness. The focus on rights in public policies, with its emphasis on international norms for social rights, has influenced primary health care (PHC) strategy and fostered the return of PHC to its original role as guarantor of the right to health.3 As human rights became increasingly global, they once again occupied a central place in World Health Organization (WHO) documents and in government attitudes.

The revival of human rights discourse occurred at a time when neoliberalism was being discredited intellectually. It coincided with the appearance of governments critical of the hegemonic model of the 1990s, the restructuring of geopolitical alliances,
and a crisis of world capitalism affecting its central core. Various trends have co-existed within this process; the attempt to establish more just societies runs parallel to the search for a new way to legitimize power, given the loss of consensus over the neoliberal model. This dual aspect of the inclusion of human rights in the political arena demands a careful analysis of the various discourses and the proposals with which they are associated.

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Editorial Offices:

Department of Family and Social Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center
Bronx, New York, 10461

Asociación Latinoamericana de Medicina Social (ALAMES)/Latin American Social Medicine Association:
ALAMES, Southern Cone Region, Cassinoni 1440 – 802, CP 11200 Montevideo, Uruguay.
ALAMES, Mexico Region, San Jerónimo 70 – 1, Col. La Otra Banda, CP 01090, México, D.F.