According to the United Nations, “the right to health is a fundamental part of our human rights and of our understanding of a life in dignity…regardless of our age, gender, socio-economic or ethnic background”. Unfortunately, as we are all too acutely aware, there is often a dissonance between this utopian assertion and the reality of healthcare access around the world. The concepts of global health and human rights are so intricately connected that it is impossible to think of one without the other.
This is why each year UTIHP (University of Toronto International Health Program) hosts the Global Health and Human Rights Conference (HHR) aimed at engaging and exploring the intersection between human rights and health. Now in its 18th year, the conference focuses on encouraging participants to explore health challenges faced by marginalized groups both on the local and international levels through a human rights perspective. In keeping with this aim, last year’s conference put the spotlight on LGBTQ rights and health issues. It featured a number of events including an NGO fair, interactive workshops, and keynote addresses by experts in the field of LGBTQ health including a number of speakers who identified as LGBTQ*.
This year the conference’s focus will shift towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the seven objectives set out by the UN at the turn of the century, which are set to expire at the end of 2015. Tentatively scheduled for a spring weekend in March, HHR 2016 will aim to engage participants in thinking about the global health challenges of tomorrow by asking them to replace the MDGs with five global health-related goals to achieve in the next 25 years- the so-called 5in25. The conference will feature a case competition where teams will get the chance to brainstorm a solution to a modern health problem, an NGO fair, and a research poster fair by medical students. It will be an excellent opportunity for health-minded students to mix, mingle, interact, and maybe change the world.
So start thinking about your 5in25 now and don’t forget to attend HHR in March!