Why embedding human rights in Scots law matters
Written by: Lucy Mulvagh
Scotland’s first public hearing on the right to health – “Public Hearing on the Right to Health: Inequalities and Social Determinants of Mental Health” – took place in Edinburgh on 21 March 2019.
It represented a culmination and convergence of several years of collective movement-building and participatory action research (PAR). Led by the People’s Health Movement Scotland (PHMS), it was chaired by Dr Anuj Kapilashrami and organised in collaboration with the ALLIANCE, NHS Health Scotland, the Centre for Health Policy at the University of Strathclyde, and several third sector organisations and community groups.
The event was aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of inequalities in mental health and the underlying social determinants of these health outcomes from an intersectional perspective. The goal was to identify solutions and seek commitments from decision-makers for action to ensure that the right to health is respected, protected and fulfilled.
Grounded in a human rights framework, the public hearing used a participatory methodology and a collaborative process to identify priorities. Priority was given to lived experience in the pursuit of social accountability. Extensive evidence was presented using background reports and first-person testimonials. These shed light on the complex interaction between the social determinants of mental health and multiple forms of disadvantage that intersect and compound each other in shaping lived experiences of mental ill-health.
The hearing focused on the following cross-cutting themes:
Evidence and knowledge was exchanged through a mixture of:
Contributions came from a wide range of volunteers, campaigners and researchers, including:
The public hearing culminated in a response from a panel of decision-makers, including representatives from the Scottish Human Rights Commission, See Me Scotland, NHS Lothian and Social Work Scotland. They discussed the need for collective advocacy and community participation in public policy planning and implementation to ensure accountability for health rights.
This event succeeded in building momentum for a movement for the right to health in Scotland. This is in part demonstrated by the key outcomes, including interest from a range of agencies to use the public hearing method and participatory approaches to develop better understanding of health inequalities and inform policy and practice in order to improve equality in health outcomes.
Written by: Matthew Hilferty