When one thinks of human rights, public health is not one of the
first things that come to mind. However, Health and Human
Rights is indeed the name of a course taught in the Rollins
School of Public Health.
One of the things we notice about human rights is that we
usually only hear about them after they have been violated,
said Dabney Evans, health educator in public health and one of three
faculty members teaching the course. That doesnt make
sense from a public health perspective because public health is
really about prevention and population-based health.
Evans colleagues in teaching the course are Alan Hinman,
adjunct professor in public health, and Tim Holtz, assistant professor
of family and prevetative medicine.
The relatively new subdiscipline of human rights in public health
involves using international human rights documents (the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil
and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights) to serve as guides for public health,
addressing the rights of individuals and the responsibility of state
actors (nation states) to uphold and fulfill those rights.
From the public health perspective, it is important to create an
environment in which individuals can be healthy. When you
think about public health, you think about coming at things from
the front end, Evans said. Of course, we have to address
violations that have taken place
but we also want to think
about preventing those kinds of abuses in the first place.
The course gives the history and background of human rights and
examines issues related to health and human rights, with the goal
of raising awareness in studentssome of whom might be planning
public health programs someday. Issues addressed in the course include
health as a human right, treating victims of human rights violations,
equality of public health, and the effects of globalization
on health and human rights.
Last year, Evans recognized the lack of such a course in the public
health curriculum and worked to get it added. When the course became
available to students last spring, only five signed up. This year
enrollment jumped to 18 students, with others sitting in.
It was really thrilling to realize that we quadrupled our
enrollment in one year because the relationship between health and
human rights is something I get really excited about, Evans
Her students also recognize the importance of what theyre
learning. The class consistently challenges me to critically
consider how public health and human rights correlate to one another,
said public health student Heather Gardner. This process is
an essential part of my public health training.
Classmate Audrey Lenhart said, I found it to be one of the
most important classes Ive taken as a student at Rollins.
It is Evans hope that her students will apply their classroom
knowledge to real-life situations in the field. If we can
teach people what [human] rights are and how they apply to what
they do, Evans said, then hopefully we can see some
changes in those rights being fulfilled and upheld.
Evans also is part of an interdisciplinary group working to develop
a human rights institute at Emory; others involved in the project
include Abdullahi An-Naim, Candler Professor of Law; David
Davis, associate professor of political science; and Jim Fowler,
Candler Professor of Theology and Human Development and director
of the Center for Ethics.
The proposed institute would allow graduate students from various
disciplines to get a specialization in human rights and would also
offer faculty training in how to incorporate human rights issues
into other University courses.
As a first step in the effort to build a human rights institute
the group has organized a speaker series, bringing in experts on
human rights to speak at Emory throughout the spring semester. The
purpose of the series is to contact other faculty from different
disciplines and promote interest in the issues of human rights and
also to begin building a core faculty for the institute.