A Child's Right to Health

Doctor meet African child

According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (“Convention”) – an international treaty recognizing the human rights of children without discrimination in any form – all children have the right to: 

  • Benefit from special protection measures and assistance
  • Develop their personalities, abilities, and talents to the fullest potential
  • Be informed about and participate in, achieving their rights in an accessible and active manner (UNICEF)
  • Have access to services, such as education and health care
  • Grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding
  • Express views freely, and provided the opportunity to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings, in all matters affecting them
United Nations Convention on children have the right to health

According to the Convention, the best interests of children should be a primary consideration in all action taken by public or private institutions concerning children. This includes welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies.

More than three decades since its introduction, governments and civil society continue to struggle to meet the guidelines laid out in the Convention. The international community has shown a clear commitment to upholding and protecting the rights of the child. However, when it comes to addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), young people are too frequently left out or insufficiently acknowledged in policies affecting their well-being. Changes were needed for children to have the right to health.

cute little boy is drawing and smiling into distance

Aligning with NCD Child’s mission, Article 24 of the Convention states that:

All children shall enjoy the highest attainable standard of health and access to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health.

It is also important to recognize there are other components of the Convention that directly link a child’s well-being across the life-course, such as Article 12, that relates to both NCDs and the empowerment of young people in decision-making.

To achieve the ‘highest attainable standard of health,’ countries that signed the Convention have committed to working towards five specific goals, all of which are connected to the prevention, treatment, and management of NCDs in children, adolescents, and young people.

Five mint circles encircling five goals of NCD Child, with text inside each circle, attached to a dark purple curved line.

NCD Child wholeheartedly endorses the WHA73 Pillar of achieving better health and well-being for one billion people worldwide. With the rising trends of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally, there is an increasing need to focus on the impact of chronic NCDs and the challenges they present for health and well-being. 

Young people are at the centre of the NCD epidemic as two-thirds of premature deaths due to NCDs are linked to risk factor behaviours during childhood, adolescence and youth. Young people, including those living with NCDs, are key stakeholders in the global NCD agenda, who must be meaningfully engaged in order to sustainably achieve better health and well-being for all.

Read the full statement