WPSR President's Update Sept 2015

WPSR’s history of education and advocacy has always been concerned with the major threats to the health of the human community. PSR was birthed at the height of the Cold War out of physicians’ visceral concerns that a nuclear war would destroy civilization as we know it, and with the understanding that only prevention was a relevant strategy for confronting the risk. Later we fully engaged the slow-moving catastrophe of climate change and its expanding threats to people and our planet. More recently WPSR has identified income inequality and its serious impacts on health as a third major risk to human health and well-being.

These three threats exhibit substantial threads of interdependency, and we view our commitment to collectively addressing these three as essential for ensuring the health of individuals and the greater human community.

We might imagine health as a balancing act of sorts. Similar to a three-legged stool which relies on all three legs for support, health relies on the support of more than one factor. The schematic below illustrates how all three legs of the “stool” we call health must be addressed to fully ensure that individuals and communities can be assured of sustained health.

Abolishing nuclear weapons and their risks is necessary to ensure individual and collective safety and survival.

Limiting the life-altering effects of climate change will be necessary to ensure a thriving, sustained natural environment for the global community.

Reducing income equality by addressing the social and financial determinants of health is necessary to ensure that individuals can experience a full measure of personal and societal security.

This systems thinking has allowed WPSR leaders to develop a strategic perspective that both argues for the necessity for our full engagement with each of these major three threats to health and establishes a unifying vision of what is required for “health.”  We do not believe that as an organization we are committed to these health threats simply because they have been historically important to PSR. We believe our three strategic priorities must be addressed simultaneously to be able to achieve improved health and security of the human community.

Addressing such complex issues is not for the faint of heart. By its very nature, social activism requires a willingness to be engaged for the long haul, as WPSR has been over its 35 years of dogged work to reduce the stockpiles and risks of nuclear weapons. 

We continue to recognize the critical role physicians, nurses and other health professionals play in bringing our evidence-based health perspective to these three issues. Although we work in coalitions with others who are concerned about these threats to humanity, the particular credibility of our arguments adds weight to our work.

WPSR has established working groups, task forces led by board members, for all three program areas.  We are pleased to report the robust status of the organization right now – including our board of directors, staff, strategic orientation, coalitions, and enhanced financial resources. These factors ensure that we will continue to be engaged in our work for the long haul. 

Thanks for being part of WPSR’s work for social change.  Social change is not a program; it’s a sacred and empowering life-long commitment. And, it is most gratifyingly experienced through working with value-driven colleagues.

When people question how WPSR can hope to make a dent in entrenched problems such as nuclear stockpiles, I say in return that we are undaunted by the odds and empowered by compassion.

Bruce Amundson, MD