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Noncommunicable diseases and human rights in the Americas – Report of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Objectives:

The report analyzes the relationship between the effective enjoyment of human rights and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Americas

Scope:

This report was issued in 2023 by the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) to provide a comprehensive analysis on the relationship between the effective enjoyment of human rights and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Americas.

The report starts by noting that NCDs are the leading cause of death globally and in the Americas, responsible for 80% of deaths in the region. This high mortality rate from NCDs is primarily due to modifiable risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, alcohol consumption, and lack of physical activity. NCDs have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups, including indigenous populations, women, children, and people living in poverty. These groups face greater exposure to risk factors and often have less access to effective health services for prevention and treatment of NCDs.

The report calls for a human rights-based approach to address NCDs, emphasizing the need for states to adopt preventive measures and regulate activities that contribute to the high prevalence of NCDs. Some of the key points made in the report are:

  • States must prevent NCDs at the population level. 
  • States cannot promote risk factors associated with NCDs. 
  • States must encourage the social determinants that lead to good health outcomes, while discouraging those that facilitate
    the development of NCDs. 
  • States have a duty to regulate and supervise business activities in the context of NCDs. 
  • States must consider the impact of NCDs on groups or individuals in a vulnerable situation. 
  • States should avoid undue industry influence and must identify, prevent and regulate conflicts of interest. 
  • Due diligence of companies that produce and distribute products associated with NCDs
  • States should regulate the activities of so-called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • States must review their fiscal framework and should adopt healthy taxes and other measures towards healthier environments
  • States must guarantee the right to adequate food which requires addressing poor nutrition
  • States must consider the detection, screening and treatment of NCDs as essential health services
  • States must not discriminate in the enjoyment of the right to health in the context of NCDs

While the report is only available in Spanish, a summary of the key points is available as additional material.