Is health care a human right?

Our campers are off on their overnight trip to Ellenton, Georgia, where they will be stocking a food pantry at a clinic that serves migrant farmworkers and their families, touring the fields where these workers harvest the produce that ends up on our tables, and exercising their right to leisure at the paddle-in campground at Reed Bingham State Park. Stay tuned for stories and photos!

This morning before their departure, we spent some time thinking about health care as a human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights groups health care with other necessities of life in Article 25, stating, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services . . . ” Campers agreed with the UDHR that health care is indeed a human right, and with that as a starting point, we considered some other questions about health care.

As we’ve done with other discussion questions, campers lined themselves up on a spectrum between the extremes of “disagree” and “agree.” Here are the statements they responded to. Where would you fall on the spectrum for each of these statements?

  • Governments have a responsibility to provide health care for their citizens.
  • Tax money should not be spent to take care of people who are sick because they have made bad choices about their health.
  • People in the United States can almost always get the health care they need.

A lively discussion ensued around each statement as campers explained their positions on the spectrum. One camper pointed out that it was the governments of the world that declared in the UDHR that health care is a right, so governments should be prepared to provide it. Although no camper completely disagreed that health care is a government responsibility, many placed themselves in the middle of the spectrum and asserted that individuals bear responsibility as well. A couple campers reminded us that what appear to be irresponsible choices about one’s health may be due to underlying issues beyond a person’s control. One camper observed that instead of offering support for issues like addiction, our society is more apt to incarcerate a person in need of mental health care. Clearly, campers have thought about these questions and formed opinions worth sharing.

Next, we moved into a discussion of the current health care debate in Congress. Campers with prior knowledge of the debates going on on Capitol Hill offered their input. Marilyn and Jonah shared examples of their own families’ decisions regarding health insurance, and how the Affordable Care Act has impacted them. Campers were urged to pay attention to the news and to engage in the national conversation around healthcare, not only because our nation is at an important juncture with regard to healthcare, but also because it won’t be long before they’ll be making health care decisions on their own, and they will be directly impacted by whatever legislation is hammered out by this Congress.

The experiences today at a rural south Georgia clinic, coupled with rich discussion about current issues, will make for a day full of impact for our campers. With their mind, hands, and hearts engaged, they are sure to come away with even more insights and convictions about how we as a society can support those whose health care resources are the most vulnerable.

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