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Mette Hartlev

Deprivation of basic social goods is a characteristic of poverty. As health is shaped by access to social determinants, such as water, housing, and supply of nutritious food, there is a clear link between poverty and poor health, and individuals living in poverty are at greater risk of being exposed to communicable and non-communicable diseases. Likewise, poor health conditions have an impact on individuals’ opportunities to sustain themselves and their families. Altogether, socially disadvantaged people with poor health conditions are easily caught in a poverty trap. This chapter explores the link between poverty and the right to health, including the impact new health technologies (e.g. precision medicine) and big data may have on access to health for individuals living in poverty. It argues, that to break the vicious circle between poverty and health it is necessary to employ a human rights-based approach with an emphasis on empowering and engaging citizens.

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Mette Hartlev

The Nordic countries are known as welfare states and as strong promoters of human rights. This is reflected in the protection of patients’ rights in separate legislative acts or chapters in all Nordic countries. The right to self-determination has a prominent position, but the character and justiciability of patients’ rights vary from country to country. For example, there are differences in the legal schemes for children and vulnerable adults, and also as regards coercive somatic treatment and self-determination in reproductive issues. Patients’ right to self-determination must be balanced against the interests of other persons, such as genetic relations. As welfare states, the Nordic countries also strive to achieve a balance between individual rights and the collective interests of society. This balance has become increasingly important in the era of personalized medicine, when new ways of reconciling individual autonomy and solidarity may be needed.

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Katharina Ó Cathaoir and Mette Hartlev

This chapter analyses states’ obligations to prevent childhood obesity under international law, drawing on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the World Health Organization’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO). We outline and compare recommendations on ending childhood obesity stemming from ECHO and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as other UN experts. We propose a children’s rights approach: states should build the capacities of rights holders and duty bearers, and fulfil children’s rights, through crafting an enabling environment, pursuing empowerment through societal and legal transformation, and ensuring accountability. While parents play an important role, states control the regulatory environment. Yet, states must at the same time not expose children to stigma. We conclude that human rights and public health can be mutually reinforcing: WHO provides evidence-based technical guidance, while the CRC legally binds states. WHO’s recommendations can concretize States’ rather vague obligations under the right to health.

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Katharina Ó Cathaoir, Mette Hartlev and Céline Brassart Olsen

This chapter explores the role of global health law in combating the transnational drivers of obesity. It asserts that greater interaction between international public health and human rights law could ensure a more robust approach. The chapter details the approach of the World Health Organization (WHO) to obesity prevention, as well as States’ obligations under the rights to health and adequate food. States’ obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are also explored. It is asserted that human rights law strengthens and legalises the public health measures recommended by the World Health Organization. Furthermore, the chapter explores the limitations on the scope of human rights obligations, including an analysis of stigmatisation and discrimination of persons with obesity. States’ competing obligations under international trade law and European Union (EU) free movement law are also introduced. In light of these challenges, we argue that public health and human rights approaches must be concretised.