The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color in the United States and immense vulnerabilities in lower-income countries has revealed a global health reality that is often overshadowed by decades of progress in overall global health, with new lows in child and maternal deaths every year, more people with HIV receiving access to lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy, and rising life expectancies. That reality is one of vast national and global inequalities, with the lived experiences of members of marginalized populations far removed from laudatory health headlines.
Here, we propose an ambitious agenda to bridge the gap between progress in global health and the realities of vast swaths of the world’s people. These proposals could comprise part of a new post-COVID-19 global health architecture to prepare the world for the next pandemic and protect even the poorest people in the poorest countries. We offer three ideas that, collectively, would span from international law to domestic law and policy to grassroots empowerment: a Framework Convention on Global Health, health equity programs of action, and a Right to Health Capacity Fund.
A Framework Convention on Global Health would be a global treaty based in the right to health and aimed at national and global health equity, creating a missing regime of accountability for the right to health. It would take the right to health to the next level, bringing specificity to presently vague human rights standards and providing concrete tools to achieve them. Health equity programs of action would be systemic, systematic, and inclusive approaches to address health inequities that each marginalized population experiences, across the determinants of health. And a Right to Health Capacity Fund would empower right to health advocacy and advance equity, accountability, and participation by providing grants to civil society organizations advocating for the right to health and by supporting accountability and participation mechanisms. If brought to fruition, these proposals, which would interact with and reinforce with one another, would have a transformative impact on global health, greatly reducing health inequities – leaving no one behind in health in both ordinary and extraordinary times.