By MIKE MAGEE
In my course this fall at the President’s College at the University of Hartford, we began by exploring the word “right” at the intersection of health care services and the U.S. Constitution. But where we have ended up is at the crossroads of American history, considering conflicting federal and state law, and exploring Social Epidemiology, a branch of epidemiology that concentrates on the impact of the various social determinants of health on American citizens.
What makes the course timely and relevant is that we are uncovering a linkage between health and the construction or destruction of a functional democracy at a moment in America’s history when our democracy is under direct attack.
This was familiar territory for Eleanor Roosevelt. She spent the greater part of World War II creating what she labeled in 1948 “Humanity’s Magna Carta” – aka the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR.)”
Embedded in the declaration was a much broader definition of health. It reads “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The Marshall Plan, for reconstruction of war torn Germany and Japan, embodied these principles, and successfully established stable democracies by funding national health plans in these nations as their first priority.
Although our nation signed the UDHR, it carried no legal obligations or consequences. In fact, the U.S. medical establishment’s bias was to embrace a far narrower definition of health – one that targeted disease as enemy #1. They believed that in defeating disease, health would be left in its wake.
In contrast, neighboring Canada took the UDHR to heart, and as a starting point asked themselves, “How do we make Canada and all Canadians healthy?” Where our nation embraced profiteering and entrepreneurship, leaving no room for solidarity, Canada embraced the tools of social justice and population health.Continue reading…