Health Is a Right — Not a Privilege

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My name is Mariana Lainfiesta. I am currently living in Guatemala City, Guatemala. As a psychology intern at Hospital General San Juan de Dios, I give workshops once a month about health. Throughout my six months working here, I’ve come to realize that many people are unaware of what health means.

According to The World Health Organisation,  “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Everyday I see the old building packed with thousands of people waiting hours to get their check-ups. Appointments are due six months forward because of the high demand of patients; surgeries are being held up due the lack of sterilized instruments or the medicine to perform them. People in wheelchairs, waiting for their scans; the nurses pushing the beds up and down the ramp because the elevators don’t work.

One day, I came to work at eight o’clock and found myself following a trail of blood. I kept telling myself that it was nothing, but then I turned to see a man bleeding out on a chair, waiting his turn. I don’t know what happened to him, but just to think that doctors prioritize, that must have meant that there were others suffering worse. Suddenly, I felt powerless and useless.

Three months ago, I lost my cousin in a car accident. We do not know how things went down, but he was taken to another public hospital, where he died on the table. As I continue working around the hospital, watching as people struggle to receive health care, I envision my cousin. I feel sad, but most of all, I feel angry because I have witnessed the deaths of the uninsured who arrive at hospitals too late for lifesaving care. My cousin was one of those uninsured. If my dad wasn’t paying my insurance, I would find myself in that situation. I would have to wait hours or, worse, months to simply get examined. People come in on the brink of death and they still have to wait it out because our public hospitals lack many vital elements required. And you know what? It’s not fair.

It’s not fair that even though health care is a right, people must pay a high price to receive it–with quality and in a timely manner. What happens to those who cannot afford it? What happens to people that can barely afford food or bus fare? Why should they wait hours, days or months when they are the ones who need it the most? Why should they die?

We, as citizens, are ultimately responsible for the decisions that our leaders make. We are responsible for the future of those to come, and as such, we are here to say: Enough is enough. Health is a RIGHT. Not a commodity. Definitely not a privilege.

I am the daughter of a man whose private insurance has covered over ten surgeries, and everyday I witness people hoping nothing bad happens because they cannot afford “getting sick”. I am a global citizen who supports the delivery of health care to every single human being. Just like education, health is necessary for a better life. They are our rights as citizens of the world. They are human rights. As such, they must be publicly provided, available to all.

Join us in working towards good health and well-being. Every little action counts; look at me, I’m playing an important role in my community by educating them about it. I know I can do more; I know WE can do so much more together. Let us be the generation that left no one behind on the path towards good health!


Blogpost writer: Mariana Lainfiesta

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