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Human-Rights Treaties Do Not Improve Health Outcomes

Wealthier states have better health status, but that is independent of U.N. treaty ratificaiton

FRIDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- A country's ratification of a United Nations' human-rights treaty does not necessarily mean improved health for its citizens, according to an article published in the June 6 issue of The Lancet.

Alexis Palmer, of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues analyzed data from 170 countries on a range of health factors, including HIV prevalence, and maternal, infant and child mortalities, as well as social indicators such as the sex gap, corruption index, and human development index.

There was no association between health or social outcomes and the ratification of United Nations' human rights-treaties, the researchers found. Although states with an established market economy had better health indicators than their less wealthy counterparts, this was unrelated to whether or not the states had signed up to a commitment to protecting human rights, the investigators discovered.

"These findings are extremely concerning, given the emphasis that the international community places upon consensus agreements and international law," Edward J. Mills, Ph.D., of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, Canada and corresponding author for the study, said in a statement. "Although the realization of the highest attainable standard of health is a progressive obligation, the realization of a minimum, essential health care is an immediate one. The fact that economic status was the greatest predictor of good health, but was not associated with likelihood of treaty ratification, emphasizes the central role of financing in the realization of the right to health."

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