To improve health in the twenty-first century, to promote both access to and quality of health care services and delivery, and to address significant health disparities, legal and policy approaches, specifically those focused on civil rights, could be used more intentionally and strategically. This review describes how civil rights laws, and their implementation and enforcement, help to encourage health in the United States, and it provides examples for peers around the world. The review uses a broad lens to define health for both classes of individuals and their communities—places where people live, learn, work, and play. Suggestions are offered for improving health and equity broadly, especially within societal groups and marginalized populations. These recommendations include multisectorial approaches that focus on the social determinants of health.


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