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Canadian Public Health Association

A Call for a Public Health Approach to Peace and Security


Ottawa, Ontario

As an organization committed to advancing public health in Canada and globally, the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) reiterates its call for a public health approach to peace and security, emphasizing the critical importance of respecting health and human rights.

The impact of armed conflict extends far beyond immediate casualties, causing widespread displacement, disruptions to essential services, and psychological trauma. Conflicts exacerbate existing health disparities, impede access to health services, and create environments conducive to the spread of infectious diseases. As such, fostering peace is a vital prescription for nurturing health and well-being at every level of society.

Today, the more than 110 armed conflicts around the world bring heightened awareness of the costs borne by civilians in terms of lives lost, suffering, devastation of civil and health systems, and violations of human rights.

CPHA urges governments, policymakers, and international stakeholders to prioritize efforts to end current armed conflicts while upholding the principles of humanitarian law and human rights.

Recognizing the interconnectedness of peace, security, and public health, CPHA urges governments, policymakers, and international organizations to embrace the following principles:

  1. Acceleration of efforts to end current armed conflicts: All parties are urged to uphold the principles of humanitarian law and human rights, and advance a comprehensive public health approach to peace and security.
  2. Prevention and diplomacy: Efforts should focus on addressing the root causes of conflict, and promoting multilateral cooperation, dialogue, and diplomatic efforts aimed at fostering just and inclusive governance.
  3. Protection of civilians and health workers: Upholding the fundamental principles of humanitarian law and human rights is imperative to safeguarding the health and well-being of civilians and health workers caught in conflict zones. All parties must adhere to international legal frameworks, including the Geneva Conventions, to protect civilians, health workers, and humanitarian aid workers from attacks, violence, and rights violations. They must also work to protect access to the necessities of life.
  4. Protection and rebuilding of health systems and other infrastructure: Intact health systems are essential for mitigating the impact of conflicts on public health and ensuring access to essential health services for affected populations. Renewing health and sanitation infrastructure, protecting health workers, and facilitating humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected areas must be prioritized. 
  5. Protection of structurally-disadvantaged populations: Conflict disproportionately affects certain populations, including women, children, refugees, Indigenous Peoples, and internally displaced persons. Efforts to address the health needs of populations must be guided by principles of equity, non-discrimination, and gender equality, ensuring access to essential health, nutrition, and protection services.

Peace serves as a cornerstone for health, fostering environments conducive to physical, mental, and emotional well-being. In peaceful settings, individuals thrive amidst stability and are able to access health services without fear or hindrance. Peace enables the conditions necessary for equitable distribution of resources, addressing socio-economic disparities that underpin health inequities. Beyond the absence of conflict, true peace entails social justice, respect for human rights, and social cohesion, all of which are essential determinants of health. Creating peaceful conditions necessarily involves admitting past harms and wrongdoings, and committing to reconciliation through strengthening relationships, dialogue and peaceful action. In this last respect, to advocate abroad meaningfully, our country needs to lead by example in accelerating efforts to implement fully the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and upholding peace with Indigenous Peoples in Canada to demonstrate our own commitment.

For more information contact:
Dolores Gutierrez, Communications & Marketing Officer
Canadian Public Health Association
Telephone: 613.725.3769, ext. 190

About the Canadian Public Health Association
Founded in 1910, the Canadian Public Health Association is the independent voice for public health in Canada with links to the international community. As the only Canadian non-governmental organization focused exclusively on public health, we are uniquely positioned to advise decision-makers about public health system reform and to guide initiatives to help safeguard the personal and community health of Canadians and people around the world. We are a national, independent, not-for-profit, voluntary association. Our members believe in universal and equitable access to the basic conditions that are necessary to achieve health for all.

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