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American Public Health Association Renews Appeal for Nuclear Weapons Abolition

PSR founding member Dr. Vic Sidel representing APHA at a nuclear testing protest in 1986. Photo: Bob Gould

The American Public Health Association has supported the abolition of nuclear weapons and the prevention of nuclear war for almost 40 years, and in February 2020, PSR members from the PSR San Francisco Bay Area chapter (Dr. Tova Fuller, Dr. Robert Gould, and Patrice Sutton, MPH), along with Washington PSR members (Dr. Amy Hagopian and Cameron Dacey) co-authored and submitted the policy statement “Towards a Nuclear Weapons Free World” for consideration by the APHA Governing Council at its Annual Meeting. On October 24th, APHA adopted this policy to update and replace many older policy resolutions co-authored by PSR founding member Dr. Vic Sidel and Dr. Gould. The adoption of such a policy right now is crucial in demonstrating the opposition within the broad public health community to the heightened existential threat of nuclear war, and its support for the growing movement for nuclear abolition exemplified by the “Back from the Brink” campaign.

In a remarkable coincidence, the treaty achieved 50 ratifications necessary for entry into force on the very same day—October 24, which was also United Nations Day. This new APHA policy will help strengthen our efforts in the U.S. to move our nation to rejoin and strengthen treaties that reduce nuclear dangers, and provide greater prominence to our growing movement to end the scourge of nuclear weapons once and for all.


Excerpt from APHA policy document “Towards a Nuclear Weapons Free World” summary, adopted by APHA on October 24, 2020

“This proposal calls for: 1) the United States (U.S.) and the other nuclear weapons states to sign and ratify the 2017 United Nations (UN) Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race; 2) the U.S. Congress and President to work towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons including, but not limited to, rejoining the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, renewing and expanding the New START Treaty, pursuing multilateral regional treaties,  renouncing first use of nuclear weapons, and ending the sole presidential authority to launch a nuclear attack; 3) the U.S. Congress and President to address legacy and current occupational and environmental health harms posed by the U.S. nuclear weapons complex; and 4) all public health professionals and schools of public health to advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons, including opposition to diverting resources to weapons development and production, teaching material covering health impacts of the nuclear weapons cycle in schools of public health, and conducting further research and publishing materials on nuclear weapons issues.”