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A moral case for universal healthcare for runaway and homeless youth

Scott B. Harpin (College of Nursing, University of Colorado at Denver – Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado, USA)
April S. Elliott (Department of Paediatrics, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Colette L. Auerswald (School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA)

International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare

ISSN: 2056-4902

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




Runaway and homeless youth (RHY) are among the most vulnerable youth globally. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that all children have the right to the highest level of health, and that universal healthcare rights are afforded to RHY and all children. Social determinants of health (SDH) are universal factors that frame the experiences of RHY as facilitators or barriers for accessing healthcare. The purpose of this paper is to describe practical best approaches, and policy recommendations, for improving clinical care systems to make healthcare more accessible to RHY.


The authors describe and apply an adapted socio-ecological framework that includes SDH specific to RHY around the globe.


There are multiple and complex factors in the social ecology of RHY that determine their chances of accessing healthcare. While many intrapersonal reasons for homelessness are the same globally, systems of care vary by country and by developing/developed country status. Structurally competent care systems offer a new lens for how to best provide care to RHY to take into account SDH and the unique needs of RHY.


The UNCRC serves as a moral guide and frame of universal child healthcare provision for countries around the world. The authors uniquely argue for UNCRC, tailored-SDH, and care delivered in a structurally competent manner to make a moral case for both physical and mental health for all RHY.



The authors are grateful for the editorial suggestions of the two anonymous reviewers.


Harpin, S.B., Elliott, A.S. and Auerswald, C.L. (2017), "A moral case for universal healthcare for runaway and homeless youth", International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 195-202.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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