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The Public Health Working Group on Primary Prevention of War


The Public Health Working Group on the Primary Prevention of War was founded in 2011.  It grew out of the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) affiliated Peace Caucus and is now an international collaborative group of academics and practitioners representing over a dozen universities.  The focus of this group is to call attention to, and take action on, a pressing public health problem that has received little attention in academic settings: the prevention of war, armed conflict, and militarism.  


The APHA, in 2009, adopted a resolution naming war as a public health problem that should be better addressed in academic settings.(1) We subsequently studied this issue further and published two journal articles:

  • Public Health Reports (2013), presenting our research documenting the limited number of courses on war in schools of public health.(2)

  • American Journal of Public Health (2014), offering a framework of public health learning competencies for the prevention of war.(3)


The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) featured these publications,(4) and our work has been featured in APHA’s The Nation’s Health(5) and other outlets.(6,7)  Working Group members then developed a skills-based edited book focused on the role of health professionals in the prevention of war and promotion of peace,(8) and its Chair wrote a piece sharing lessons about the group’s journey.(8)  Each year since its founding, the group has held an organizing session at the APHA conference in collaboration with the Peace Caucus. The group has also reached out to the Deans of Schools and Programs of Public Health and started a web resource to assist professors in designing content addressing the prevention of war and militarism, as part of existing courses, stand-alone classes, conferences, one-time lectures, or to support student interest groups.  When curriculum, research and action introduces students and broader audiences to a public health framework for preventing war and militarism, it serves to open up a new line of inquiry and approach to public health policy, just as past threats to population health, such as tobacco and motor vehicle crashes, have come to shape public health strategies. 


Join Us!  

Please contact Shelley White, PhD, MPH, founder and Chair, to join our efforts (  We have a collaborative, transnational listerv, as well as regular conference calls for planning, partnership, and advocacy efforts.


Publications and Press:

 (1)  American Public Health Association. 2009, November 10. The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics and Advocates in Relation to Armed Conflict and War. Policy Number 20095.  Available on-line at:

(2)  White, Shelley K.; Lown, Bernard; and Rohde, Jon E. 2013. “War or Health? Assessing Public Health Education and the Potential for Primary Prevention.” Public Health Reports 128(6).  Available on-line at:

(3)  Wiist, William; Barker, Kathy; Arya, Neil; Rohde, Jon; Donohoe, Martin; White, Shelley; Lubens, Pauline; Gorman, Gerry; Hagopian, Amy. 2014. “The Role of Public Health in the Prevention of War: Rationale and Competencies.”American Journal of Public Health 104(6): e34-e47. Available on-line at:

 (4)  Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. 2014, May 30. “Washington Contributes to Report that States Public Health Should Focus on Prevention of War” Friday Letter. Available on-line at: 

(5) The Nation’s Health.  2014, August. “Member Groups in Brief.”  Available online at:

(6) The Nation (Staff Writer).  2014. “Sick of War.” October 6.  The Nation 299(14): 5.

(7) Public Health Watch. 2014. “Groundbreaking Report from America’s Leading Public Health Association Identifies Militarism as a Threat to the Nation’s Health.” May 17.

(8)   Wiist, William, and Shelley K. White. 2017. Preventing War and Promoting Peace: A Guide for Health Professionals.  New York: Cambridge University Press.

(9) White, Shelley K. 2017. “Public Health and Prevention of War: The Power of Transnational, Transdisciplinary Collaboration.” Medicine, Conflict and Survival 30(1): 1-9.

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