- Health isn’t just about doctors and hospitals – it’s about how you live, where you live and how you are looked after
- You have rights to make sure that you will be able to grow and develop healthily, and hopefully avoid going to the doctor or spend time in hospital most of the time
- You still have these rights even if are living with a disability or a condition which means that your health is not as good as you might like it to be.
What rights do you have to stay healthy? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child includes the right to grow and develop healthily, to have nutritious food and clean water, and to understand how to keep yourself safe.
What we eat has a big impact on our health, and you have the right to healthy food and clean water. Sometimes it can be hard to tell which foods are healthy and which aren’t. Food should be properly labelled so you know what’s in it. There are some ingredients that may not be suitable for you as a child because of the effects it can have, and these have to be included on the label.
Some shops and supermarkets use a food labelling system which marks in green orange or red the amount of sugar, fat and salt the food contains. This is helpful for you to decide whether something is better for you, but it isn’t compulsory for food to be labelled like this.
It’s also important that food is labelled properly so that you don’t eat something that you are allergic to, or which could harm you another way.
Being able to get enough exercise is part of your right to grow and develop healthily. If you go to school, you should have PE and games lessons, and have the opportunity to exercise during breaks and lunchtimes as sports clubs. The places where you live should have space where you can play. Local Authorities in Wales should think about making sure you have access to open spaces like parks when they plan buildings and development in your area.
You have a right to be protected from any activities that could harm your development and wellbeing. A lot of the time, this is done with rules that say you can’t do something until a certain age. You aren’t allowed to drink alcohol until you are 18. You aren’t allowed to buy cigarettes until you are 18. Lots of drugs such as cannabis are illegal – so it’s always against the law to have these things in your possession, or to use them.
Adults aren’t allowed to smoke in a car with someone who is under 18 – but you might find it hard to talk to the adult who is smoking and make them stop.
You should also be protected from sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and from abuse and neglect by your parents. All of these things can have an impact on your health and your development. If something like this is happening to you, you may be worried or scared about telling anyone. if you can find someone you trust to talk to, you may be able to get help so that things can be done to make sure you are safe and protected from future harm. The people who will be involved in helping you – social workers, people at court, the police - should listen to what you want as part of this.
We talk a lot about physical health – what happens to our bodies, and whether our bodies are working properly. Sometimes we forget that what’s happening in our mind, and to our mental health is just as important.
Your rights to health apply to mental health as much as they do to your physical health. If you are feeling unhappy or you are self-harming, or doing something like not eating properly, or making yourself sick after eating, these are all signs that you might need to see a doctor about your mental health.
Sometimes, mental health problems come from problems we’re having at school or at home, or because we’re having problems with our physical health. This could be because someone is bullying you, or someone at home is hurting you or something else. You have rights to protect you from this kind of behaviour.
There are lots of reasons why you may not have good health, or have a medical problem that means you do need to spend time in hospital, or visiting your doctor or specialist clinics. If you have any kind of disability, you should be supported so that you get the help you need to live well and be able to take part in the community where you live, including getting an education, enjoying play, and being able to get proper health care and training so you can work.
We are very grateful to Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for generously giving their time and expertise to check the content of this section of the website. October 2018.