EPID663: Health, Evidence & Human Rights

EPID663: Health, Evidence & Human Rights

Midway through Epid 663: Health, Evidence, and Human Rights, Kristefer Stojanovski knew he’d found his career path. The second-year health management and policy/epidemiology student had long been interested in health disparities, but the course opened his eyes to the multiple ways that human rights conventions and laws can affect those disparities. He promptly applied for and got a scholarship to spend a summer at Harvard’s Program on International Health and Human Rights, where he worked on human rights issues linked to HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, and female genital mutilation and cutting.

Human rights, he says, “is applicable to almost everything you can do in public health. Maternal and child health problems, reproductive health problems, environmental injustices, conflict zones. It crosses all disciplines.”

Next up: a summer internship with the World Health Organization in Belgrade, Serbia, where Stojanovski will work to improve health and living conditions among the country’s vast and vulnerable Roma population. He’ll also tap into his roots. The Michigan native comes from Macedonian stock on both sides of his family.

Syllabus: EPID663: Health, Evidence, and Human Rights
Fall 2011
Siobán Harlow, Professor of Epidemiology

Course description: The ability to generate and interpret evidence is critical to addressing human rights abuses both in the courts and through the development of national and multilateral policies. Through case studies, this course systematically examines how to frame population-research priorities from a human rights perspective and how population-research methodologies can be applied to human rights questions.
On the reading list: Sofia Gruskin, Michael A. Grodin, Stephen P. Marks, and George J. Annas, eds., Perspectives on Health and Human Rights (Routledge, 2005); Stephen P. Marks, ed., Health and Human Rights: Basic International Documents (Harvard, 2004); Jennifer Prah Ruger, Health and Social Justice (Oxford, 2010).
Key assignments/activities: Students identify and explore a new and/or emerging public health and human rights situation, consider what evidence is needed to advance our under- standing of this situation, and develop a research proposal to generate the evidence.
The professor says: “Several years ago I was organizing a Human Rights Consortium at the University of Michigan, and we brought in a series of speakers. One of them was Bruno Simma, a justice on the International Court of Justice in The Hague and a member of the UM Law School’s affiliated overseas faculty. Over dinner, Justice Simma talked about the role of the academy in the human rights agenda. He brought up the issue of evidence and suggested that universities have a unique opportunity to contribute by developing methodologies and strategies for improving the quality of evidence that is brought to bear on human rights issues. That’s when I decided to teach this course.”