Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate Conflict and health

Peace building through health initiatives

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 29 July 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:293
  1. Graeme MacQueen, associate professor, department of religious studies,
  2. Joanna Santa-Barbara (, assistant professor, department of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences
  1. Centre for Peace Studies, McMaster University,1280 Main St West, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4K1
  1. Correspondence to: J Santa Barbara

    This is the last of four articles Edited by

    War affects human health through the direct violence of bombs and bullets, the disruption of economic and social systems by which people use to address their health needs, the famine and epidemics that follow such disruptions, and the diversion of economic resources to military ends rather than health needs.18 In recent years war has been framed as a public health problem.9 This highlights the role of health workers in preventing and mitigating destructiveness but also raises questions regarding the constraints to their achievement of such objectives.

    Summary points

    Health work in zones of conflict can initiate and spread peace through conflict management, solidarity with indigenous health workers, strengthening of the social fabric, public dissent and restriction of the destructiveness of war

    Evaluation tools need refinement, but there is preliminary evidence of effectiveness for some health-peace initiatives

    The health-peace connection

    The transition towards peace in war-affected zones will often improve health care and health status of populations. But do health workers have a role in expanding peace? Progress towards more peaceful relationships, between large entities such as nations or blocs, or small entities like community groups, requires multitrack actions at several levels. Does health care offer one such track? Only empirical data will answer this question, but our preliminary analysis of information suggests that health initiatives have indeed been successfully used as peace initiatives.1012

    This paper seeks to briefly elaborate on the linkage between health and peace in the hope that others will see useful applications of this linkage. We use the term “health-peace initiative” to refer to any initiative that is intended to improve the health of a population and to simultaneously heighten that population's level of peace and security.

    Bases of health-peace mechanisms

    The five peace building mechanisms described below have been …

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