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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Beth E. Rivin
SIS 590
Seattle Campus

Special Topics

Seminar. Course content varies. Offered occasionally by visiting or resident faculty.

Class description

Our “Health and Human Rights” course addresses the leading issues in global health and international human rights through case-based teaching and active student participation. The course approaches global health and justice from a variety of perspectives, including human rights doctrine, global bioethics, public health policy, and international law. Classes examine the linkage between health and human rights by analyzing the meaning of the right to health, vis-à-vis other human rights. The right to health as framed by international treaties and covenants will be considered in light of the three main regional legal enforcement mechanisms and through cases exemplifying enforcement of the right to health. The course considers a variety of case studies and issues, focusing on vulnerable populations (children, women, PLWA, the disabled, the poor) and specific population health threats (HIV, malaria, malnutrition). Other topics of study include international bioethics and the relation to human rights, the public health and human rights aspects of international trade law, with particular focus on the right to access medicines, the role of humanitarian aid, NGOs, medical neutrality, human rights analysis of public health policy/programs and population impact and human rights concerns of climate change.

Student learning goals

• By the end of the course, the student will be able to describe the health and human rights framework and use it to analyze major public health problems.

• By the end of the course, the student will be able to list and explain the major international human rights conventions and treaties and describe how they can be used to further population health and social justice simultaneously.

• By the end of the course, the student will be able to explain international, regional, national and local legal mechanisms to promote population health and further justice.

• By the end of the course, the student will be able to identify health, legal and social factors that contribute to individual and population vulnerability.

• By the end of the course, the student will be able to describe the concepts and theory behind bioethics and human rights law, explain the overlap between these two fields and the leading international documents that describe the linkages.

• By the end of the course, the student will be able to identify the theoretical and practical tensions between the goals of human rights protection and public health programs and suggest strategies to strike a balance between them to effect improved individual and population health outcomes.

General method of instruction

Text: Realizing the Right to Health: Swiss Human Rights Book Vol. 3 by Andrew Clapham, Mary Robinson, Claire Mahon & Scott Jerbi (Ruffer & Rub 2009) [hereinafter “Clapham”].

There will also be a variety of supplementary articles, cases and materials for the course that will be available on the course website or through links to Lexis-Nexis Universe.

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites. A course in global health, public health or law and justice would be helpful.

Class assignments and grading

With respect to class participation, the expectation for each class will be that the student arrives prepared and ready to engage in discussion, having previously briefed the assigned reading. The mid-term writing assignment will allow the students to use the knowledge and skills learned in the first sessions to analyze a case study. This writing assignment will provide students feedback on their work before the final case study. The final group case study and presentation will focus on an acknowledged health and human rights problem and explore the population health, human rights principles, applicable international law and opportunities for legal redress that could be used to remedy the problem. Students will work in groups of 4-5 with each researching, writing and presenting one aspect of the case study. The final assignment will be individually graded and will include the group in-class presentation and a ten-page double-spaced paper further examining the issue. Suggestions for research and case studies are detailed in the reading assignments below. Students are welcome to suggest an alternative area of interest, provided that the instructor approves the topic before it is presented. Case study groups will consist, insofar as possible, of students from different graduate schools, so as to benefit fully from the interdisciplinary collaboration that is at the heart of the course.

Your course grade will be based on class participation (25%), a mid-term writing assignment (25%), a final case study presentation (25%) and a final paper (25%). There is no final exam.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by M Jane Meyerding
Date: 03/23/2012