Do You Think Health Is a Human Right?

I've lived in the same house for four decades, and as long as I can recall, there has been a wonderful health resource right here in my neighborhood.

For many years my mom worked across the street from this resource, now known as  Providence St. Joseph. 

Providence reaches far beyond my neighborhood, which is just east of downtown Seattle. It has grown over the years and is a guardian angel watching over seven Western states: Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Providence St. Joseph is the largest provider of health care in Washington State. Its services span from hospitals, clinics and senior centers, to hospice, home health services to communities of all size.

The organization provides essential health care programs as well as social services to those who are poor and vulnerable, and they’ve showcased it as part of their “Health is a Human Right” campaign. The Health is a Human Right campaign has a goal — to raise awareness about the work and programs that serve the needs of the region.

Homeless encampment on Airport Way S., Seattle. 2017 ©terri nakamura

Homelessness and Health Care

For many years I’ve been following the issue of homelessness in the Seattle area. I’ve blogged about it and visited a number of the camps in the city. The situations that cause a person to become homeless can vary, but in all cases the people I met and spoke with had very few resources. When they became injured or sick, typically it would lead to a hospital emergency room visit, which would be used as a primary care resource. Using an ER is a very costly way to get care.

Providence St. Joseph is committed to the belief that health care is an inalienable human right, and there is recognition that each person—body, mind and spirit—is deserving of care. It’s not just a matter of talking the talk. They actually walk the walk, literally reaching out into communities.

The Providence House of Charity Clinic has helped ease the burden on emergency rooms in Spokane. In 2017 the number of ER visits had doubled from a decade earlier. The expanded clinic includes volunteer doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who treat patients, and in some case help them enroll in “Apple Care,” (Not the company that makes the iPhone and MacBook), which is the name of Medicaid health coverage in Washington State.

They extend compassion to homeless patients and help enhance human respect and dignity. The needs of those served can be complex, so there are dedicated staff to address access to community resources, transportation and behavior health assistance.

Homelessness and Mental Health

In fact, Providence helps fund efforts that aid homeless patients who may be dealing with substance abuse and other mental health challenges. For example, they support the Spokane Fire Department and Frontier Behavioral Health. Both have staff who are trained in motivational interview techniques that can perform risk assessments and safety planning that could include crisis intervention and stabilization services.

I feel fortunate to have Providence St. Joseph in my community. Unbelievable transformations have taken place Seattle to the extent that I don’t recognize parts of my own home town. The changes have negatively impacted people who can't afford to live here. 

I’m glad Providence is still here and also has spread its good work to other states. And it’s still pursuing its commitment to provide compassionate care to all lives, including those who are homeless. 

Nationally, its giving community benefit exceeds $1.6B—an example of truly putting money where its heart is.

Do you think health is a human right? I do.

"Health is a Human Right" article in the November 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Thank you, Providence St. Joseph for inviting me to help spread the word. It’s an honor to take part in this promotion.

More About Terri:

Her store on Alki Beach: Alki Surf Shop
Terri Nakamura Design & Social Media
Terri Nakamura on Twitter
Alki Surf Shop on Twitter
The Horsfall House on AirBNB
Terri Nakamura on Wordpress
Terri Nakamura at Bellevue College


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. (Subjective and biased opinion that is not based upon any research at all: ...)
    The debate about healthcare always revolves around the age old battle between socialism and capitalism. Socialism works in homogenous countries because the rich look like the poor. The rich will think, "Look at these poor people. We must help them because they are our brothers and sisters." Socialism doesn't work in diverse countries as well as it does it homogenous countries. In countries that have a diverse population, the rich will think, "These poor people don't look like us. They are not from the same tribe. We can exploit them and not feel bad." That's why capitalism works there.

    1. Stanley, thank you for reading and commenting. I agree the U.S. is NOT homogeneous, and it's actually the reason why the country can't agree on even the simplest things, such as "don't litter," or more complex issues such as "don't kill people." As far as health care is concerned, the numbers of homeless people continues to increase. In 2018, there were about 552,830 homeless people in the U.S. Likely, most of them are without health care coverage.

  3. Thanks for this great shout out to Providence Health & Services and their commitment to making health care accessible to all!

    1. Dear Melissa, many thanks for reading this and for commenting. Providence has indeed stepped up to help, just as other social agencies including the Salvation Army have helped so many people in need!

  4. Anonymous3:05 PM

    People have rights, but they also have responsibilities. This is true in all societies. If good health is a personal right, then living healthy is an individual responsibility. This is a hard truth, but ignoring it won't help. Providence, Swedish, Harborview and all of our other local medical do a fantastic job of treating the sick and injured, but if we had fewer people making irresponsible choices it would make their job easier.

    1. One of the things my husband and I have discussed is the lack of support to people by their inner circles. When a person is undergoing hardships, it's curious why family and close friends don't step up to help? Your comment about individual responsibility might give a clue about why. It's possible a chronic pattern of bad decisions have led to an individual's situation, and family and friends have given up. Mental illness is part of the mix. By getting to the root of the problem, maybe there is a chance for improvement.


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i'm a graphic designer who loves words. - terri nakamura