Beyond the Bedside: A Human Rights Approach to Adolescent Health

40 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2012 Last revised: 30 Jan 2015

See all articles by Jonathan Todres

Jonathan Todres

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: January 17, 2012


In the United States, discussions regarding adolescent health, particularly in the political and legal arenas, frequently focus on one of two issues: abortion and medical decision making. These are important issues that merit considered attention, but there is much more to adolescent health. Many other issues — ranging from violence to substance use to obesity — have a significant impact on the health and well-being of adolescents. This symposium essay aims to shed light on the breadth of health issues confronting adolescents and explore the utility of human rights law in understanding and responding to key health issues confronting adolescents today.

Employing a human rights framework, this essay seeks to forge a more holistic understanding of and approach to adolescent health. The essay begins by discussing the range of issues affecting adolescent well-being, focusing in particular on violence, substance use, and obesity. It then briefly addresses the limits of a medical model and related concerns with over-relying on the health care sector to address all adolescent health issues. Access to health care is crucial, but successfully addressing adolescent health issues will require law, policies, and programs that contemplate adolescent well-being beyond health care facilities. This essay then discusses the value of using human rights law as a starting point for developing a comprehensive response to adolescent health issues. Human rights law can facilitate identification of the breadth of issues affecting adolescents while simultaneously providing a legal framework for developing appropriate responses to the various harms that adolescents experience.

Keywords: adolescents, children, international human rights, violence, substance abuse, obesity, medical model, children's rights

JEL Classification: K32, K33, I10, I30, O20

Suggested Citation

Todres, Jonathan, Beyond the Bedside: A Human Rights Approach to Adolescent Health (January 17, 2012). Brooklyn Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 20, pp. 191-229, 2011, Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-04, Available at SSRN:

Jonathan Todres (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

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