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Waikato adjunct professor gives health seminar based on UN experience

21 February 2012

Professor Paul Hunt

Hunting for Highest Health Standard: Former UN Special Rapporteur on the highest attainable standard of health, Waikato's Adjunct Professor Paul Hunt, gave a seminar at Waikato University on his time in the UN role.

New Zealand still has a way to go to reach the highest attainable standard of health, says a former United Nations Special Rapporteur.

Speaking at a University of Waikato seminar, Professor Paul Hunt, a former senior lecturer at Te Piringa - Faculty of Law and now adjunct professor, said issues like having no detailed support programme for acute rheumatic fever sufferers was an example of the health system failing its users.

Health system a core social institution

Professor Hunt spoke about his time as a UN Special Rapporteur, discussing how the right to the highest attainable standard of health could be translated as the right to an affordable and integrated health system.

“We need to think of the right to the highest attainable standard of health as a core social institution, underpinned by a handful of human rights.”

New Zealand has improvements to make

As a Special Rapporteur, Professor Hunt visited Uganda, Sweden and New Zealand to investigate any health and human rights problems facing each country, finding that each country was not up to scratch with certain health and human rights treatment.

In Uganda, neglected diseases were the most pressing issue, whereas in more developed countries like Sweden and New Zealand, issues like having no detailed support programme for intravenous drug users and acute rheumatic fever continued to be troubling.

Human rights an asset for heath professionals

Professor Hunt argued that pharmaceutical companies have certain social/human rights responsibilities, including the duty to take reasonable steps to enhance equitable access to medicines. He says it is important to position human rights as an asset for health professionals rather than something they should be wary of.

Professor Hunt was UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health for six years and currently teaches international human rights law at Essex University in the UK.

Download Paul Hunt’s seminar from Waikato’s iTunes U site. You can download iTunes for free at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/.