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Issues of the Day Healthcare is a Human Right - All the Way to the World Bank

With players as savvy as Barak Obama and his administration, it seems quite unlikely that mere coincidence juxtaposed the US president’s recent announcement concerning his nominee to head the World Bank, and the US Supreme Court ‘s deliberations relating to health care reform. By nominating a physician with a depth of international experience in advocating health care as a human right, Obama’s message was crystal clear.   

Prof. Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-born, Harvard-trained medical doctor who also holds a doctorate in anthropology, has served as president of Dartmouth College for the past three years. He has headed the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization and he is among the cofounders of an international aid organization, Partners in Health, a group whose stated aim is to serve our patients, their communities, and the cause of equitable access to health care and other basic human rights. Inspired by the liberation theology movement that brought purpose and hope to millions of people in Latin America during the 1980s, we practice pragmatic solidarity, standing with our patients in their struggle for health and social justice.


Dr. Kim has worked at the grassroots level to eliminate tuberculosis and other diseases in poor communities from Peru to Siberia.


Formerly known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in the post-World War II period, the initial aim of the World Bank was to support the rehabilitation of devastated European economies and  stimulate the economic development of its allies. Over time, the Bank has been increasingly concerned with poverty reduction through development and its focus has been largely on the poor countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, and impoverished areas elsewhere.

From a top-down approach where economic and administrative policies were formulated by experts and consultants operating at the organization’s Washington, DC headquarters or national centers far from where development change was introduced, the Bank, as virtually all such agencies, has evolved a much more decentralized modus operandi.


Bottom-up or community-based development, including  meeting healthcare needs in underserved areas, has been recognized as offering a more effective basis for progress.

This is the approach that Dr. Kim has advocated, taught and practiced in the field. By proposing the physician-anthropologist-organizer to serve as the head of the World Bank, President Obama has signaled his dedication to the principle of health care (if not all basic needs) as a human right.   

That is a position I strongly endorse. 

World Bank

Jim Yong Kim, biography from Darmouth College

Partners in Health

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