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Saturday: ‘Violence: A Global Public Health Challenge’

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 09:02

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Justin McCallum / The Tufts Daily


A six-person panel on Saturday afternoon, “Violence: A Global Public Health Challenge,” delved into the importance of approaching violence around the world as both an international security issue and a global health pandemic.

Panelist Dr. Merrill Singer, a professor of anthropology and public health at the University of Connecticut, described violence as a “biosocial disease.” Street violence, war, disease and inequality are connected, he said. 

The panel then turned to Karen Volker, the Washington, D.C. office director of the Cure Violence organization. Volker explained how Cure Violence has limited violence by attacking it as an epidemic.

“We treated people that had the [plague] as if there was something wrong with the people,” Volker said. “This is what we do to people who commit violence in our societies...[street violence and war are] not independent types of violence,” he said.

Director of Emergencies and Special Initiatives at Physicians for Human Rights Richard Sollom recounted his experiences with police-wrought violence in Bahrain. According to Sollom, violence becomes a human rights issue once a government employs excessive force against civilians.

“Never before has a country engaged in attacking its civilians so relentlessly and daily for so long with toxic chemical agents,” he said.

Gregg Nakano, former Military Liaison Officer for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, discussed the continuing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan. He argued the U.S. has neglected the problem of poor living conditions in these areas.

“These people [in Afghanistan] lived in combat for 40 years,” he explained. “Not only that, they don’t have a place to go to the bathroom, their infant mortality is one of the highest in the world. If you take a gun to this, if you take a bomb to this, you’re just going to increase the deaths.” 

Kassim Dauod, former National Security Adviser of Iraq, spoke next about the struggle to attain democracy in Iraq. The problem, according to Dauod, is that Americans and the Iraqi opposition did not add social and cultural factors into their goal of creating democracy. 

Finally, Ira Helfand, the co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, described the possible consequences of a nuclear war and stressed the importance of taking action to reduce the number of nuclear bombs.

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