Access to Health

The Access to Health Project (ATH) is an interdisciplinary health and human rights project in which students and faculty from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law's Center for International Human Rights (CIHR), the Center for Global Health, the Program in Public Health, the Kellogg School of Management, and the Feinberg School of Medicine work in consultation with marginalized communities across the globe to assess the health needs of the community, and to design a targeted, sustainable approach. ATH has worked with rural communities in the Mopti region of Mali to address female genital cutting, with urban communities in Nigeria on health rights, and with healthcare providers in the Dominican Republic to increase quality of patient service, among others. The project is founded and directed by Professor Juliet Sorensen of Northwestern Law.

Students at the Law School, Feinberg, and Kellogg can join this experiential learning project through the Law School’s Health and Human Rights course. Each year the class is asked to form teams to act as ‘consultants’ to research and innovate a new approach to a common issue based on the feedback from community-based partners. Students from the class may apply to join an in situ health needs assessment, and to incorporate the information from this fieldwork into the final project for their team. Those who have taken the course and wish to continue supporting ATH are encouraged to assist with the projects implemented as a result of their in-class efforts.

Ongoing Projects


Access to Health has been working in Lebanon since 2017. Since March 2020, the focus has been on the development of an interactive financial literacy curriculum for vulnerable Lebanese and a know your rights manual reflecting international, Lebanese and Syrian law for Syrian refugees.


Access to Health began working in Lagos, Nigeria in 2016, initiating a robust community-led health literacy and health access project that continues today. View the Nigeria Project website.


Past Projects 

Opioids Roundtable and White Paper

Building on its 2016 Interdisciplinary Symposium on the opioid epidemic, on October 27, 2017, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law hosted an invitational roundtable entitled “Identifying the Metrics of Success in Interdisciplinary Addiction Response.” The roundtable was convened to bridge the silos in Chicagoland working to curb the opioid epidemic. The event brought together a group of 35 stakeholders from the Chicago area across disciplines, including primary care physicians, law enforcement, NGOs, public health officials, and others, to bridge the disconnect and work toward an interdisciplinary approach to cresting the arc of the opioid epidemic. A white paper, largely derived from efforts at the roundtable, followed from that work.

Lake Tanganyika

Together with the Environmental Advocacy Center, ATH built an ongoing partnership with the Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic to provide targeted, responsive research. The 2017 ATH team was asked to look at the complex issue of the negative environmental impacts of bed-nets on riverine communities. ATH and the Environmental Advocacy Center also worked with the Floating Health Clinic to assess the existing hydrocarbons law in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to propose reforms based on best practices in the area of environment and anti-corruption regulations.


 A feasibility study of the ongoing sustainability of a nonprofit health clinic in a peri-urban slum of Khartoum was conducted in 2015. A number of ways to generate revenue to sustain the clinic were analyzed.


In 2014, ATH initiated a number of health interventions – including an album, a radio campaign, and a play about female genital cutting - in Douentza, a town in the Mopti region of Mali.

Dominican Republic

Guaymate, a town in La Romana Province, Dominican Republic, was the site of the Access to Health Project 2013, in which students partnered with the local public hospital, which serves primarily Haitian migrant workers, to do a patient care and service assessment.


The Access to Health project sent an interdisciplinary team to Bonga, Ethiopia, in September 2011 and March 2012 to identify potential gaps in health care service delivery.




  • Evaluation of the Effect of Medical Screenings on Asylum Procedures in Lesvos, Greece
    • This report examined the lack of medical assessments upon arrival and the impact this has on refugees’ legal procedure in Lesvos while providing recommendations on how these assessments should be conducted. 
    • Our partner, Fenix, is a humanitarian aid and legal organization that began operating in December 2018 to respond to the dire lack of legal representation and information available to refugees on the island of Lesvos. Fenix was first focused on providing legal assistance but quickly realized that a holistic approach was necessary.
  •  Curriculum Guidelines for Female Cultural Mediators in Greece
    • This report developed guidelines for a cultural medication curriculum that is tailored to address the needs of refugee women and the barriers they face in seeking healthcare.
    • This report is in collaboration with SAO Association, an NGO for displaced women. Since 2017, SAO Association operates a day center in Lesvos called Bashira Center and one in Athens called Amina Center. Both centers provide emergency aid and protection services to women and are safe spaces.  


  • Both of these reports were written for Share Uganda a not-for-profit, community-based healthcare organization, working in the rural Kyotera District of Uganda. It began its operations in 2009. Its work focuses on providing quality and sustainable health services; supporting the education of local health professionals; and developing collaborative solutions to local healthcare challenges. Share Uganda is managed by Ugandan medical professionals and community leaders and is supported by an international network of volunteers.


  • Transgender Healthcare in China
    • This report investigated transgender people’s access to healthcare in China. It was written for the Psychological Team for Trans People in China, a non-profit established in 2018 which provides direct mental health services to transgender people, including counseling and operating a hotline. This report aimed at supporting the organization in its advocacy effort towards shedding light on the poor health outcomes of transgender people in China and support the partner organization in its advocacy goals and objectives towards sensitizing Chinese society about its transgender population.


  • Evaluation the Health and Human Rights for Incarcerated Women in Lebanon
    • In partnership with the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH), the aim of the report was to provide a mechanism for evaluating the health status and needs of incarcerated women, by developing a short survey tool to measure the key physical and mental health indicators, the provision of health care, and other prison conditions that can impact health. The survey tool allowed CLDH to identify first hand data about the women’s health conditions in prisons.
    • A group of students then traveled to Lebanon to conduct meetings with key stakeholders, share their research findings and gain an understanding of the perspectives and challenges faced by government officials, lawyers, prison staff, NGOs, researchers, and health care providers in addressing the health needs for women in prison.


  • New Technologies for Tuberculosis: R&D and Access
    • Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of death from infectious disease and one of the top ten leading causes of death worldwide. There is a historic lack of research and funding for development of TB diagnostics and treatments, as well as a lack of universal access to the new medicines and diagnostics that do exist. TBpeople, founded in 2016, is a global network of activists who have been personally affected by tuberculosis.
    • TBpeople held a strategic planning meeting to update the organization’s goals. The result were four strategic priorities to be achieved between 2019 and 2022: 1) become the most influential network; 2) eliminate the TB funding gap; 3) demand innovation and accessibility now; and 4) end discrimination and fight stigma. This report, prepared for TBpeople by graduate students at Northwestern University, makes a series of research-based recommendations aimed to assist TBpeople in achieving these strategic priorities.


  • Mental Health Stigma Among Youth in Nigeria
    • In partnership with the University of Lagos College of Medicine, this report examines mental health and mental illness amongst youths in Nigeria. The aim is to reduce stigma about mental illness by increasing awareness, evaluating how youths aged 18-24 perceive mental illness, and determining how resources can be utilized appropriately. To do this, a team of students traveled to Lagos to conduct qualitative research and organized an awareness seminar on mental health and mental health stigma with students at the of University of Lagos. The report serves to address gaps in research, examine the nature of mental health stigma, and to make recommendations for law and policy reform.


  • Gun Violence, Employment, and Economic Development in Chicago’s North Lawndale Neighborhood
    • This report assesses the relationship between economic development, gun violence, and health in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. The work presented and proposed is tailored for the Restorative Justice Hub, which is a network of community partners in North Lawndale who collaborate with the goal of creating a safe space within the neighborhood.
    • The purpose of this paper was twofold: first, to evaluate the current research connecting gun violence and economic health, as well as the current landscape of gun violence and economic health within North Lawndale. The second goal was to evaluate the current opportunities within North Lawndale to increase economic health. The report provides three major categories of strategies to achieve this goal: incentivizing for-profit development, encouraging local entrepreneurship, and optimizing workforce development.


  • Improving TB Diagnosis Access in India
    • Northwestern’s Access to Health project team researched and analyzed the TB diagnostic landscape in India, focusing specifically on drug resistant TB. Research uncovered three different causes of inadequate MDR-TB diagnostics services—inadequate access to latest diagnostic technology, social disparities and stigma surrounding TB, and high reliance and trust Indians place on private sector healthcare. This report then analyzed the problem of technology and social disparities using publicly available data and qualitative research (consisting of focus groups and in-person interviews conducted in India).
    • This report provides recommendations for two different stakeholders—Global Coalition of TB Activists, a global platform of people affected by TB that amplifies community engagement and strengthens the capacity of TB activists at all levels and Touched By TB, a the Coalition of TB people in India that was formed with the goal to work towards a TB-free India.


  • Barriers to Accessing Legal, Safe Abortion and Misoprostol in Kenya
    • Female victims of sexual violence in rural Kenya are unable to realize their full right to health due to their inability to access the life-saving drug misoprostol or safe abortion services.
    • Working with our partner the Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network (KELIN), a not-for-profit organization that creates country-based networks that intersect law, ethics and human rights.
    • The following report describes the legal protections in place for women, the general characteristics of female survivors in Kenya, the context and support for misoprostol access in rural Kenya, and the structural, economic, and cultural barriers to accessing misoprostol. The report incorporates in-country research aimed at clarifying existing literature and the most up-to-date research in country. Due to a combination of explicit and implicit barriers, the Kenyan health system and penal code do not provide rural women, particularly those who are victims of sexual violence, with their constitutional right to health.


06/25/2020 - Trial Observation Report: Criminal Proceedings Against Diana in El Salvador

06/25/2020 - Trial Observation Report: Criminal Trial of Evelyn Hernandez in El Salvador

05/13/20 – Alexandra Tarzikhan receives a honorable mention for best project oral presentation during the Institute for Global Health’s Global Health Education Day 2020

02/26/2020 - Chicago to Nigeria and back again: How a local connection sparked an international journey with Slalom and Access to Health

Winter 2020 - Access to Health Project uses technology to improve community health education in Lagos

2019- Utilizing Visual Storytelling and Cultural Traditions to Promote Active Engagement in Health Education

06/17/2019 - Access to Health in Lagos: An Interdisciplinary Partnership with the Community

01/08/2019 - America’s Opioid Epidemic: A Rights-Based Approach in Health and Human Rights Journal

10/23/2018 - Global partnerships lead to empathetic storytelling in Lebanon and Nigeria

09/26/2017 – Megan E. Schliep, Joseph M. Feinglass, Kenzie A. Cameron, and Juliet S. Sorensen are amongst the winners of the 2017 best paper awards during the International Conference on Sustainable Development

01/11/2017 - Juliet Sorensen Believes Interdisciplinary Collaboration is Key to Global Justice

10/18/2016 – NLawProud: Professor Juliet Sorensen

10/17/2016 - In Illinois, chasing the arc of opioid epidemic

04/26/2016 – The Role of Biomedical Visualization in Medicine and Health

04/26/2016 - Reducing premature deaths linked to environmental risks

03/09/2016 - In Remotest Mali, A Hero on International Women’s Day

11/02/2015 - Communities are Partners, not Beneficiaries

05/26/2015 - Courtney and Chris Combe Give $1 Million to NU’s Access to Health Project

04/23/2015 - Northwestern Law Experience:  Reinventing Interventions

12/01/2014 - ATH project awarded grant for "Public Health Then and Now"

04/15/2014 - What does it look like to be a socially conscious business person?

03/13/2014 - Juliet Sorensen Publishes “The University as Global Citizen” in Health and Human Rights Journal