Health and Human Rights: An International Journal

Today I had another 'Harvard Moment'... I was lucky enough to be able to attend the re-launching of Health and Human Rights: an International Journal. This journal has been floating around academia for twenty years but had a relatively small readership and was generally lacking mojo and street-cred. With new financing and, importantly, backing from two dragons in Public Health, Dr Paul Farmer and Dr Jim Yong Kim, today it was relaunched as an open access internet and print publication.

The distinction as an open access publication is important. Currently four multinational corporations own and distribute the majority of scientific and academic papers published. Unless you are lucky enough to be a member of a hospital or university with a subscription to an online journal database accessing any academic research can be a costly exercise. For many developing nations the costs associated with subscription are simply beyond reach. Thankfully the movement toward open access journal databases is gaining momentum. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) publishes over 100 journals free of charge and making the "new and improved" Health and Human Rights Journal readily accessible is another step in the right direction.

To be honest I found the notion of preaching about free and ready access to academic journals and academia in general to a group of people who attend one of, arguably, the most exclusive and expensive universities in the world slightly ironic. But the general feeling in the room was of empowerment and momentum toward dissolving barriers to information and improving human rights around the world.

It was also an honour to hear Dr Paul Farmer speak. If anyone is still confused about "what public health is all about" and what the hell I'm doing over in the states, I urge you to read Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains. It is a biography of Dr Paul Farmer and his organisation Partners in Health. Admittedly he (Paul Farmer) is a slightly fanatical genius, and I do not hope, nor want to copy his life in any way. But he is inspiring, and his life mission is what Public Health is all about - the notion of delivering first rate health care to all.

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