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Public health and moving upstream of terrorism
  1. JOHN ASHTON, CBE
  1. Joint Editor
  2. 9 October 2001
  3. Liverpool

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    In this issue, we include a number of contributions that were prompted by the terrorist atrocity in New York on 11 September. Around the world people have been struggling to come to terms with this latest manifestation of globalisation and hatred, what it means for the future of the human family and how we can most appropriately respond to the new threat to public health.

    As I write, the military action inside Afghanistan has begun, accompanied by intense diplomatic activity and a stepping up of humanitarian aid provided by Western governments. On the streets of Pakistan and other countries in the region, the battle for hearts and minds is in full flow.

    The public health community has not been slow to comment on how we might move upstream of an acute military response. Writing in the Lancet, Richard Horton claims that “the discipline of public health adds fresh perspectives on foreign policy and counter-terrorism measures. Principles of harm reduction are more realistic and practicable than false notions of a war on terrorism. Attacking hunger, disease, poverty and social exclusion might do more good than air marshals, asylum restrictions and identity cards. Global security will be achieved only by building stable and strong societies. Health is an undervalued measure of global security.”1

    Our own contributions carry a strong personal flavour. While Len Duhl reflects on a war game of the 1960s and a “paradoxical” intervention involving the dropping of food and radios rather than bombs, Gavin Mooney calls for more leaders of Mandela's stature and more initiatives like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Andrea Campbell poignantly links a plea to find alternative ways out of the crisis with the memory of her brother's death in Vietnam, and Nancy Milio applies her analytical gifts to provide a policy framework that might just help us avoid the abyss into which we are all now so apprehensively staring.

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