Written by Clay Smith
Through education and advocacy, we can reduce the risk of global nuclear conflict. You have more power to change the world than you might think.
Taking public health to a whole new level
It might seem weird to cover this on JournalFeed, but UN Secretary General António Guterres cautioned that we are in, “a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War.” Not to mention, I got nearly ten emails from JAMA about this specific article. I remember feeling afraid as a small boy about the threat of nuclear war, and I hand wrote a letter to President Reagan. Even now, I feel powerless about something as big as nuclear war, but maybe I’m not as powerless as I think. You’re reading this right now, along with an army of other healthcare providers. What can we, as healthcare providers do to stop nuclear war? This article was co-authored by numerous academic journal editors-in-chief from across the globe. Here’s how we can help.
First, we can make the public and leaders aware of the risk. There are currently 13,000 nuclear weapons worldwide. If even 250 were fired, estimates are 120 million people would die outright, and the effects of a nuclear famine would put 2 billion lives at risk. If the US and Russia engaged in full scale nuclear war, 200 million people would be killed in the short-term, and 5-6 billion lives would be lost as a result of a global nuclear winter. So, the answer isn’t to avoid nuclear proliferation. It is to get rid of all nuclear weapons…easier said than done. However, lest we become too jaded, health organizations, such as International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), played a key role in educating policy makers and ending the Cold War and are currently working on a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We can join the call of organizations, like IPPNW, to nuclear states to take three specific actions: 1) adopt a no use policy; 2) take nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; 3) publicly pledge to not use nuclear weapons in current conflicts. Also, we can urge nuclear states to set deadlines for doing away with nuclear weapons altogether. This is just sensible. Use of nuclear weapons destroys not just enemies, it destroys us all.
How will this change my practice?
For starters, I put my money where my mouth is and made a donation to IPPNW. This seems like a worthy investment in public health. Also, I am using the JF platform as a megaphone for this article. Please read it. Do your part. Share with others.
Reducing the Risks of Nuclear War-The Role of Health Professionals. JAMA. 2023 Aug 15;330(7):601-602. doi: 10.1001/jama.2023.14519.