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European health groups launch Medical Peace Work courses

February 24, 2011

European health groups have launched seven freely available, interactive online courses in violence prevention and peacebuilding. The aim of the courses is to educate health professionals about the impact of war and other forms of violence on the health of individuals and populations, and to show how they can make a positive and particular contribution to peace building, violence prevention and conflict transformation. The courses provide the participants with new insights about the special role and responsibility of healthcare professionals in peace work.

Bernard Lown, inventor of the defibrillator and founding Co-President of IPPNW said “The doctor cannot ignore the issues of peace and war. There is no greater pathogen than war. So why do you worry about tuberculosis, malaria, shistosomiasis, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, but when it comes to war you don’t want to talk about it.”

The courses, which will be promoted worldwide, were developed by 19 organizations from Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Turkey, and the UK. They are not only designed for health professionals and students who wish to do humanitarian or development work or who want to work with human rights or medical peace organizations; these courses are valuable for all health workers, no matter where they work and live.  The course issues range from suicide and interpersonal violence prevention to the abolition of nuclear weapons.

According to Dr. Klaus Melf of the Health Department of the County Governor in Troms, Norway, “It is vital that doctors and other health professionals understand how people are affected – both physically and psychologically – by power abuse and war. Many health professionals want to do more than simply patch up the wounded.  They want to get to grips with the underlying issues and do everything they can to prevent violence and achieve peace.”

To access the courses, which were developed with support from the European Commission, go to

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