“Let’s Talk about Peace”-by Patricia J. Terstenyak

Does peace affect our health?  If so, in what ways?  One immediate thought is without peace, there is stress and conflict, and we’ve learned stress is unhealthy, so peace must be good for us, right?  Let’s look at this a little deeper.

First, we need a working definition of peace.  We might envision the beautiful white dove with olive branches in the background or the hippy-dippy tie-dye peace sign.  So beyond these images, what is peace?  The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers a few definitions:

  • a state of tranquility or quiet: as
  1. freedom from civil disturbance
  2. a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom
  • freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
  • harmony in personal relations
  • This is putting us in the right direction; however, a more thorough description is from Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams.  She defines peace as “by human (not national) security and that it must be achieved through sustainable development, environmental justice, and meeting people’s basic needs.  Peace is a sustainable peace in which the majority of people on this planet have access to enough resources to live dignified lives”. 

    Let’s connect these concepts of peace with health.   If I am experiencing civil disturbance in my community, there’s a chance I might be injured due to violence, I can worry about real and potential threats to my safety, and I can have sleep disturbances.  Let’s agree, civil disturbances do not promote positive health outcomes and well-being.  Williams mentions the importance of meeting people’s basic needs – did anyone else think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? With peace, there is an understanding that my needs for air, food, shelter, warmth and sleep will be met.  There is an understanding that everyone’s basic needs can be met.

    How do you connect peace with health?

    There are many local and international organizations exploring the relationship between peace and health.  The World Health Organization has implemented Health as a Bridge for Peace.  As explained on the website, it supports health workers in delivering health programs in conflict areas while encouraging peace-building strategies.  To learn more about Health as a Bridge for Peace click here.