GUEST COLUMN

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Young Advocates

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist: Laura Janneck

served as the American Medical Student Association’s Global Health Education Coordinator in 2008. She was inspired to attend medical school after seeing the slums of Brazil and recognizing the links between poverty and disease.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: More and more, people are coming to understand health as a human right, as something that all people are entitled to, no matter where or under what circumstances we are born. Just as civil rights have gained widespread recognition in the past 50 years, social and economic rights such as health care are taking hold in our collective consciousness as fundamental to the human condition. This recognition holds us responsible for ensuring that these rights are upheld. We cannot stand idly by as human rights such as the right to the highest attainable standard of health are violated. Each of us is responsible to challenge the structural violence and systems of inequity that violate the right to health, and to create a world that upholds this right for everyone.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Niko and Theo Milonopoulos

founded Kidz Voice-LA and Vox Populi after a series of shootings in their North Hollywood neighborhood. They encourage young people to get involved in the prevention of gun violence, have led marches and rallies, and have testified at legislative hearings. In 2007, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a bill they drafted which requires that gun dealers post warning labels on storefronts and sales receipts highlighting the risks of having a gun in the home.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Health and human rights are the basic building blocks of our world community. They are pervasively intertwined: the physical, emotional and behavioral well-being of any child, woman or man is a necessary prerequisite for exercising our most cherished rights and freedoms just as basic guarantees of human rights ensure that all people - regardless of race, income or origin - are provided equal access to healthcare services. Health and human rights guarantee that we live in a safe, vibrant society free from the threats of violence, poverty, and disease.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnists:
Mollie Dahlgren, M.D., and Michael Tees, M.D. , M.P.H.

co-founded the Tulane University chapter of the Student Physicians for Social Responsibility during their first year of medical school, in 2004. The group educates students and the local community about environmental health issues in New Orleans. They organize lectures and film screenings, contact government representatives about local environmental hazards, and develop community health programs. After Hurricane Katrina, the organization took part in Project Releaf, planting trees in areas of New Orleans devastated by the storm.


Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: There are many aspects of health that we believe should be basic human rights including access to health care, protection from infectious epidemics and natural disasters and clean neighborhoods. Both have dedicated themselves to helping the local community and consider that a healthy environment is a basic human right. A community owns their environment, just as they own their bodies. The environment is not conventionally thought of as something individuals have any control over and conversely, as something that controls individuals. Ambient industrial pollution, for example, is an aspect of modern life that we have come to accept complacently. Yet the effects of industrial pollution can be profound albeit silent and invisible. In order for a community to take ownership of neighborhoods and demand regulation of pollution, first we must raise awareness that pollution exists and secondly that it affects us. The focus of our work has been on raising awareness of how health and environment interconnect in our own neighborhoods.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist: Tanyaporn Wansom

As a member of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), Tanya Wansom raise awareness among medical students about vital health issues. She has trained future physicians to educate local middle school and high school students in their communities about HIV/AIDS, and participates in events such as calls to Congressmen to encourage funding for AIDS relief in Africa.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: To me, health and human rights means that people, regardless of who they are or where they come from, should have equal value placed on their lives. Although I know this isn't true in the world today, I think it's unconscionable that 1.2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day, which is less than many people in the United States spend on their daily cup of coffee. 

As a global AIDS activist, I also equate the lack of access for first-line HIV/AIDS medications as a failure to value others' lives. When life-saving medication can be bought for less than a dollar a day and people are still dying without the opportunity to access these medications, I view this as tantamount to telling them that their lives are not worth that much to the world.