The right to health is recognized as the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The right is an inclusive right, extending not only to timely and appropriate health care, but also to the underlying determinants of health (Art. 12 of ICESCR). States are under an obligation to guarantee that the right to health is available, accessible and of high quality, and imposes specific obligations to protect the rights to maternal, child and reproductive health; healthy workplace and natural environments; the prevention, treatment and control of diseases, including access to essential medicines; access to safe and potable water.
By example, in India the Supreme Court has recognized the right to health as a core component of Article 21 (right to life) of the Indian Constitution. This reading has been possible in the backdrop of Art. 47 of the Directive Principles for State Policy (DPSP), which is not per se enforceable yet it mandates the State to “regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.” In light of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Art. 21, the Government has enacted several schemes guaranteeing universal access to public health services. For example, the National Rural Health Mission is an umbrella scheme providing for health services, financial assistance and nutritional supplements, with specific focus on measures to reduce maternal and infant mortality.
The Interim Constitution of Nepal protects the right to health and to access to free health care in Article 16 (Part 3). Articles 33 and 35 also place a duty on the State to ensure the right to health for all its citizens and raise standard of living. In this sense, to improve access to health services and remove financial barriers for the poor, the Government of Nepal introduced a series of schemes covering out of pocket expenses and providing financial incentives to patients and health workers. Under the Aama Programme women receive up to 1,500 Nepalese Rupees (NRs), depending on the area where they live, to cover transportation and other access costs. Similarly, the 4ANC Programme provides cash disbursement for women completing 4 antenatal check ups in public facilities.
The Government of Bangladesh, in order to make necessary basic medical utilities reach people of all strata and develop the health and nutrition status of the people as per Section 15(A) and 18(A) of the Constitution, has enacted a series of strategies and plans based on the Primary Health Care approach. The policy spells out minimum health services to be provided, with a “focus on the disadvantaged, the poor and unemployed persons,” including immunization, reproductive health services, prevention and control of endemic diseases and health education. The policy also regulates health infrastructure (facilities and staff) in rural and urban areas.