Gutlove, Paula (June 2000). “Health as a Bridge to Peace: The Role of Health Professionals in Conflict Management and Community Reconciliation.” Violence and Health: Proceedings of the WHO Global Symposium, 12-15 October 1999 Kobe, Japan: Kobe World Health Organization. Reprinted with Permission (12 pages).

Involvement of professionals from different sides of a conflict in the delivery of health care can be a model for collaborative action, and can create the long-term community involvement that is essential for sustainable peace. This paper looks at the Health Bridges for Peace project (HBP), an initiative launched by the Institute for Resource and Security Studies (IRSS) in 1996 to help health care professionals realize their potential to heal violence-ravaged individuals and communities. The project utilizes a shared concern, namely the restoration of public health, as a vehicle to convene, engage, and train health care professionals in conflict management and community reconciliation techniques. IRSS initiated the first HBP field program in the former Yugoslavia in 1997 and the second HBP field program in the North Caucasus in November 1998. Both field programs have enjoyed the support of WHO and other international agencies.

HBP has provided new hope and possibilities to many indigenous health professionals, providing them with new opportunities, a new vision, and a new role in their community and in the world. By working and training together, health professionals are giving their communities a symbol of hope and a reason to believe that the promise of their shared future can shine brightly enough to start healing the painful memories of their shared past. Growing global interest in the use of health as a bridge to peace poses an exciting challenge which WHO is uniquely placed to meet.

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