Health and Rights
The Open Society Foundations work to ensure that all people have access to health and human rights.
2020 Health and Rights Budget by Region
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Working Together to Address Health Workforce Mobility in Europe
In Europe, the migration of health workers from east to west has had significant impacts—including the loss of skilled health professionals. This policy brief offers six key insights concerning policies that are needed across the EU.
Care Workers Deserve Credit for South Korea’s COVID-19 Response
South Korea’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been cited as a model in the international press. While their technology has been celebrated, the essential role care workers played in avoiding a larger crisis continues to be ignored.
Rest in Peace
Remembering David Rothman, a Liberator and Pioneer
Rothman, a scholar-advocate of the highest order who had a profound influence on Open Society, wrote on a wide array of subjects concerning ethics and medicine, and helped free thousands of people from involuntary institutionalization.