253935 Nuclear Weapons and Public Health: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Headed?

Monday, October 31, 2011: 12:45 PM

Robert Gould, MD , Physicians for Social Responsibility, San Francisco, CA
Patrice Sutton, MPH , Research Scientist, University of California San Francisco, Oakland, CA
In November 1985, 116 individuals gathered at the close of the 113th annual meeting of APHA in Washington, DC, to form the Peace Caucus. This inaugural meeting of the Peace Caucus followed the closing plenary, “Prevention of Nuclear War as a Public Health Responsibility.” The following year, over 500 APHA members and conference attendees protested at the Nevada Test Site in support of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a step towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. Approximately 130 protesters participated in non-violent civil disobedience, including many in APHA leadership positions. These groundbreaking events brought the public health consequences of nuclear weapons to the fore at APHA, and added to the public pressure leading to the later U.S. adoption of a moratorium on the explosive testing of such weapons. This presentation will explore the antecedents to these and related events, and provide a perspective on subsequent developments regarding nuclear weapons and public health. Methods: We reviewed (1) APHA policy (1945 to the present) and the Peace Caucus program (1985-present) on the topic of nuclear weapons; and (2) synthesized the public health perspective overtime related to the following themes: the role of health professionals in preparations for nuclear war; the consequences of expenditures for nuclear weapons; the health impacts of research, development, testing and use of nuclear weapons; global policies and options; and recommendations for preventing the adverse health consequences of nuclear weapons. Our findings and recommendations for future efforts to advance APHA's goal of abolishing nuclear weapons will be presented.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related education
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Recognize 5 public health impacts of nuclear weapons; 2. Evaluate the role of public health professionals in preventing the adverse environmental and public health consequences of nuclear weapons; and 3. Describe current U.S. nuclear weapons policy in the context of the global movement to abolish nuclear weapons.

Keywords: War, Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the President of San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility and a Board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and have spoken and published widely on these issues, most recently, having co-authored with Patrice Sutton the chapter Nuclear and Radiological Weapons in the book, Terrorism and Public Health, edited by Victor W. Sidel and Barry Levy, Oxford University Press (2011)
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.