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Health for all in the new millennium
  1. Robin Stott
  1. Chairman, Medact, 601 Holloway Road, London N19 4DJ, UK;

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    Health professionals working in organisations promoting health through social and environmental justice have a good track record.

    Poverty is the greatest violence Ghandi

    Do health professionals have a responsibility to identify, and attempt to correct the social and environmental wrongs that so undermine our personal and collective health? The organisation of which I am presently chairman, Medact, has 2000 members whose unequivocal answer to this question is YES. Furthermore, the impact of healthy professionals working over the past 50 years in the two parent organisations from which Medact evolved, shows that this unequivocal response is rooted in good evidence, essential in this day of obsessive obeisance to evidence based decision making.

    What then of Medact’s parents? Fifty years ago several now eminent doctors, horrified by the slaughter and destruction unleashed on the globe by the second world war were fearful that nuclear weapons would be used against China in the Korean War (1950–53). Concerned that the conflict might then escalate into a third world war they founded the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW). I joined this organisation, recognising the strength of the argument that conflict originated in a mind set that violence and war somehow offered real hopes for fair and just solutions to problems. To counter this MAPW argued that a fair and just social and economic order was a morally better and practically more effective solution. MAPW set out to unite doctors in efforts to prevent war and to consider the profession’s ethical responsibility in this respect. MAPW lobbying helped end the embargo on urgent medical supplies to China in 1953, it held conferences on the pathogenesis of war, and Dr Spock, an enthusiastic supporter, addressed one such conference on the importance of the doctor as a citizen activist.

    At the end of the 1970s …

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