Around the world, human rights violations compromise public health. Sexual violence, unlawful discrimination, land dispossession, police harassment, forced medical interventions, and denial of essential services threaten health and wellbeing. This is especially true for people who are socially marginalized and disempowered—including sex workers, Roma, people who live with HIV, use drugs, need palliative care, and have intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.
Programs that improve these communities’ access to justice can play critical roles in deterring such abuses. Since 2007, Open Society has initiated and supported community-based peer paralegals, street-based lawyers, legal services that integrate into health care, and web-based legal advice. And we have engaged traditional community justice structures like chiefs and elders.
Justice Programs for Public Health: A Good Practice Guide unpacks key lessons and challenges that Open Society and our partners have identified through this work. This guide is a comprehensive tool both for justice organizations interested in addressing pressing public health needs, and public health groups that recognize justice is as critical to public health as medicine. It is also a resource for funders of health or justice programs. The guide details and explains the approaches noted above, offers examples of successful activities and actions, and defines the chief health and human rights concerns of six populations that have been our focus—though its lessons apply broadly.