Every birth and death must be counted

One of the most fundamental human rights is that everyone be treated with dignity and that each person matters--it is the tenet from which all other human rights flow. Another is that those who are most vulnerable deserve special protection. However, in many developing countries, vast numbers of children are born but never counted, and their health and welfare throughout their lives remains unknown.

In this month's PLoS Medicine, Lexi Bambas, former coordinator of the Global Equity Gauge Alliance (www.gega.org.za), an organisation that works to monitor to health inequalities and to promote equity within and between societies, argues that universal birth registration is a crucial step in reducing health inequities. Unicef has estimated that a third of babies born each year are not registered--many of these unregistered children have no legal right to health care, education, or the state's protection.

Bambas discusses the work of the new Health Metrics Network (http://www.who.int/healthmetrics/en/), a global collaboration focused on strengthening national health information systems, so that countries have better data for making decisions about health.

In addition to the tenet that each person matters--and so births and deaths must be counted--Bambas argues that there are three other key human rights principles that can guide efforts to reduce health inequities:

  • Everyone should have opportunities for health and the means to improve health, and vulnerable populations deserve special attention--this means that countries should collect and analyze information on inequalities in health status and the determinants of health among better-off and worse-off groups in society

  • Governments are accountable to the public, communities have a right to the information they need to make healthy decisions, and individual autonomy should be su

Contact: Paul Ocampo
Public Library of Science

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