I want to highlight a good article by a well-regarded leader in the field of health and rights. Alicia Ely Yamin recently wrote about the importance of societal participation, power, and its impact on health and rights.
"A fundamental distinction of a human rights approach to development and policy-making that affects health is that it aims to enable those who are most impacted by poverty, patriarchy, and disease to be active participants in constructing the solutions to their problems..."
"Through effective participation, we can challenge political and other forms of exclusion that prevent us from having power over the decisions and processes that affect our lives and our health. Thus, if patterns of suffering and ill health must be understood as reflections of power relations as much as biological factors in a rights framework, the goal of a rights-based approach to participation should be to subvert the subordination and marginalization — the “pathologies of power” in Paul Farmer’s terminology — that prevent certain groups and individuals from realizing their rights..."
"In addition to political participation, other civil rights, such as freedoms of association and information, are essential to allowing people effective participation in health, understood as an exercise in citizenship. For example, there is substantial evidence that when small farmers have information that allows them to compare prices, rules, and policies, their participation in decisions affecting their lives rises significantly. As Peter Uvin notes, the right to information has been a cornerstone of a rights-based approach to development in India, which has had dramatic effects on health. Similarly, the elimination of discrimination, which prevents certain groups, such as women or minorities, from having an equal opportunity to voice opinions about a given issue that could affect their health, is also key to enabling rights-based participation... "
"...habit, fear, low expectations, and unjust background conditions deform people’s choices and even their wishes for their own lives."
There is much that is worth reading here. Read her entire article and/or the other relevant articles in the most recent edition of the Health and Human Rights Journal http://www.hhrjournal.org/index.php/hhr.