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Health and Rights

The Open Society Foundations work to ensure that all people have access to health and human rights.

$128.5M 2020 expenditures for Health and Rights
12.8% Percentage of global expenditures
44.8% Average annual change in expenditures since 2016

2020 Health and Rights Expenditures by Region

      Explore our full expenditures by theme and region

      Our Work

      A man is given a medical test.
      A man receives a test for COVID-19, at a homeless shelter, in Budapest, on May 13, 2020. © Akos Stiller/Redux

      Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare deep inequalities in access to health care that the Open Society Foundations work to combat.

      This work began in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the Foundations supported efforts to strengthen health services in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including work to contain HIV and tuberculosis—then rife in prisons and places of detention.

      Today, we work across the globe to support communities that receive substandard care or face barriers to services because of who they are—including Roma and other minorities, transgender and intersex people, people living with disabilities and experiencing mental health problems, sex workers, people who use drugs, and migrants and refugees.

      Two people stand next to a minivan which is parked under a streetlamp at night.
      A paralegal and an advocate for sex workers’ rights talks to a client next to an outreach van in Cape Town, South Africa.  © Sven Torfinn/Panos for the Open Society Foundations

      Our work seeks to advance an inclusive vision of health as a public good—an issue of paramount importance in the search to deliver therapies and a vaccine for COVID-19. That vision calls for health care to be available to all, for laws and policies governing health to be transparent and democratically accountable, and medical innovation to deliver solutions that are accessible to everyone.

      Mental Health

      Three women work together in a kitchen to bake some pies.
      Three women who live in a home established for adults living with mental health challenges bake pies in Gurjaani, Georgia. © Ami Vitale for the Open Society Foundations

      The Open Society Foundations advocate for the rights of people with lived experiences of mental health challenges who face deeply rooted stigma, rights violations, and social exclusion. We support the participation of people with these challenges in decisions that affect them, and a mental health practice that respects their dignity and agency.

      Prenatal and Early Childhood

      A woman reads an education pamphlet to a woman and her two children.
      An education facilitator shows a brochure on home safety to a woman and two children. © Sanja Knezevic for the Open Society Foundations

      Our Early Childhood and Public Health programs are funding Roma Healthy Start, an initiative aimed at improving prenatal and early childhood care for Roma mothers and babies. The effort seeks to reduce infant mortality and to address developmental challenges by taking a comprehensive approach to caring for pregnant women and their families.

      Palliative and End-of-Life Care

      A woman who works at a hospice as a palliative care nurse hands a man in a wheelchair medicine while another woman takes notes.
      A man in a wheelchair is visited by a palliative care nurse who provides medicine and legal advice in Nyeri, Kenya.  © Sven Torfinn/Panos for the Open Society Foundations

      Open Society has been advocating for the provision of palliative and end-of-life care since the 1990s. Today, this work includes not only working to ensure access to adequate pain relief, but also efforts to provide relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness—improving quality of life for both the patient and the family.

      Drug Policy and Harm Reduction

      A man and an adolescent girl wash dishes together.
      People without homes who are also drug users wash dishes at a shelter in Recife, Brazil on December 12, 2016. © Lianne Milton/Panos for the Open Society Foundations

      Together with our foundations, our Public Health and Global Drug Policy programs advocate for drug policy focused on public health and safety, rather than punishment. We support approaches that do not require cessation of drug use as a precondition of support, including advocacy for needle and syringe programs to prevent the spread of HIV, and medically supervised injection facilities to reduce overdose deaths.

      Eliminating Legal Barriers to Health

      Our efforts to ensure access to health care for all includes funding the training of paralegals who help excluded communities and individuals to negotiate bureaucratic barriers to care—helping Roma families in the Western Balkans, for example, to obtain the identity documentation they need to obtain treatment at local hospitals.

      A man stands outside a house with two women.
      A health mediator visits with two members of the local Roma community in Sofia, Bulgaria on September 28, 2016. © Boryana Katsarova for the Open Society Foundations

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