Applying Human Rights-Based Approaches to Public Health: Lessons Learned from Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Programs

Allison Smith-Estelle, Laura Ferguson, Sofia Gruskin


The application of human rights norms at the national policy level is largely codified, but rigorous research on the field-level application of a human rights based approach (HRBA) to health programs is still in its infancy. The paper identifies human rights norms from international law and standards that are relevant to maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) programs, and presents an example of how a HRBA has been previously applied in an MNCH project. It introduces a HRBA framework recently developed by Concern Worldwide and partners, and conducts a document analysis of a previous Concern Worldwide project in Malawi. Discussion focuses on where and how the project could have benefited from incorporation of a HRBA in project design, implementation and evaluation. The authors conclude by discussing how such inclusion could have impacted project outcomes, and how such analysis can help inform future efforts to implement a HRBA to health.


Health and human rights; Human rights-based approaches; Maternal; newborn and child health; Malawi

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ISSN 2308-7854 (online); ISSN 0850-5780 (print)

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