Published February, 2018

A Moral Case for Universal Healthcare for Runaway and Homeless Youth, Scott B. Harpin et al., International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare 10:196-202 (2017)

In arguing for universal, youth-centered health care to promote wellness among runaway and homeless youth, the authors use a framework of social determinants of health (SDH)—the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. Since SDH such as family, housing, nutrition, and poverty play a large role in causing both youth homelessness and negative health effects, they should be addressed just as readily as other, “more medical causes of youth morbidity,” including infectious diseases.

The analysis is significant because it takes a holistic view of health care and the needs of young people, including SDH such as connections to caring adults, youth services, access to competent healthcare, social stigma, and appropriate youth rights policies.  This approach is supported by international human rights treaties, most notably the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which calls for, “the right of every child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health,” and to, “a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.” Although the United States is the only member of the UN not to have ratified the CRC, it could arguably still apply as customary international law, since so many states have accepted it as law.