What constitutes evidence in human rights-based approaches to health? Learning from lived experiences of maternal and sexual reproductive health

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Unnithan, Maya (2015)
  • Publisher: Harvard School of Public Health

The impact of human rights interventions on health outcomes is complex, multiple, and difficult to ascertain in the conventional sense of cause and effect. Existing approaches based on probable (experimental and statistical) conclusions from evidence are limited in their ability to capture the impact of rights-based transformations in health. This paper argues that a focus on plausible conclusions from evidence enables policy makers and researchers to take into account the effects of a co-occurrence of multiple factors connected with human rights, including the significant role of “context” and power. Drawing on a subject-near and interpretive (in other words, with regard to meaning) perspective that focuses on the lived experiences of human rights-based interventions, the paper suggests that policy makers and researchers are best served by evidence arrived at through plausible, observational modes of ascertaining impact. Through an examination of what human rights-based interventions mean, based on the experience of their operationalization on the ground in culturally specific maternal and reproductive health care contexts, this paper contributes to an emerging scholarship that seeks to pluralize the concept of evidence and to address the methodological challenges posed by heterogeneous forms of evidence in the context of human rights as applied to health.
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