From impassioned U.S. political rhetoric to conflict zones  in the Middle East, the belief that health care is a human right is a  contentious debate rather than a universal standard.

Kamiar Alaei and Arash Alaei
Drs. Kamiar Alaei and Arash Alaei

The University at Albany and its affiliated partner, Albany Law School, have joined forces to change the way we understand and work with international health laws.

The institutions are creating an online, distance-education program for Middle Eastern trainees in fields related to law, health and civil society. The project will merge critical concepts from international human rights and health laws to provide programs addressing the unique and complicated health needs facing the Middle East.

Since announcing a stronger affiliation in October 2015, UAlbany and Albany Law School secured a $1.6 million, two-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This partnership clearly demonstrates the impact of the University’s faculty collaborations to leverage federal funding and influence critical areas of law and public policy on an international level.

The project is driven by the University’s Global Institute for Health and Human Rights (GIHHR), established in 2012 by renowned human rights activists Drs. Kamiar Alaei and Arash Alaei. The Alaei brothers are from western Iran and have devoted their careers to global issues surrounding health and human rights.

The Institute was designed to generate a deeper understanding of the connections between health and human rights, and create innovative solutions for the challenges of that intersection.

The Institute was designed to generate a deeper under-standing of the connections between health and human rights, and create innovative solutions for the challenges of that intersection.

GIHHR manages various inter-national projects in the areas of drug policy, environment, international health law, criminal justice, HIV/AIDS prevention and care, human rights advocacy, research and health policy. It strives to be interdisciplinary in both the analysis of global health issues and in the approach to addressing them.

The Institute offers courses and programs in Minorities Access to Health, Health of Refugees and Migrants, Women’s Health, HIV/AIDS and IDUs (Injecting Drug Users), and Right to Physical and Mental Health. The Institute’s staff comprises a mix of UAlbany and Albany Law School faculty and visiting professors from schools across the nation.

Along with UAlbany, Albany Law and USAID, international scholars from McGill and Oxford universities are participating in the project.

In May 2015, Dr. Kamiar Alaei was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Founded by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, the award pays homage to the immigrant experience and the contribution made to America by immigrants and their children. Additionally, the Iranian brothers’ work has been praised by the World Health Organization.