Magazine article The Nation's Health

Recommiting to Health, Human Rights in Honor of Sen. Kennedy

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Recommiting to Health, Human Rights in Honor of Sen. Kennedy

Article excerpt

I am writing this penultimate message to you as APHA president in the aftermath of our final goodbye to Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, a champion of health care policy and legislation for decades.

I am proud that we were able to recognize his contributions to public health at last year's APHA Annual Meeting, where he was honored with an award for his achievements. In the midst of the many tributes to his life and work, it was good to hear his vision "that every American will have decent quality health care as a human right and not a privilege."

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Those of you who have heard me speak at many of the state and regional public health association meetings that I visited over the past two years have heard my concern for the recognition of health as a human right. Among the fundamental values that undergird international human rights is the recognition that all of us are entitled to respect and dignity merely because we are human beings and that this is due to us regardless of race, class, gender, sexual preference, age or any other circumstance of our lives. Embedded in so many of the international documents that enunciate our rights as humans is the right to what is called the "highest attainable standard of health."

One of the many lessons to be learned through reflection on the life and work of Sen. Kennedy is that of perseverance. This is a necessary trait for those of us who work in public health. The fairly rapid outcomes in individual health that nursing colleagues who work in acute care settings enjoy is not often the experience of public health nurses who help families grow as they face the challenges of developing healthy lifestyles or caring for members with illnesses or disabilities. …

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