Second Year Fellow, Tyler Weber writes about public health and determinants of peace

Public Health and Determinants of Peace

Peace is not an imaginary distant utopia; it is a measureable, designable, and achievable human outcome. Thanks to the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), we now have an evidence-based platform to critically and meaningfully introduce the determinants of peace into our research and practice in public health.

Discussions of peace and public health, although sparse, have existed for some time. In 2002, Laaser and colleagues suggested that public health professionals could play a role in promoting peace by utilizing multiple approaches to mitigating violence.1 Around the same time, others noted that health and peace can’t exist without each other,2 and that “peace through health” should become a new discipline in health sciences.3 These editorials and commentaries highlighted important issues, however, a critical point was made--the growing interest and movement in peace through health needed evidence.4

Established in 2009, the IEP is a non-profit, independent, non-partisan research organization that creates conceptual frameworks and metrics for defining and measuring peace.5 It was formed after the Global Peace Index (GPI) found strong correlations between peacefulness and national wealth.5 Since then, the GPI has enabled IEP to create an evidence-based framework of the determinants of peace.

Structures of Peace is a notable publication by IEP that lays out a statistically grounded conceptual framework for peace.6 Figure 1 highlights eight key determinants associated with peace,6 some of which are also found in public health models:

Figure 1: Institute for Economics and Peace Conceptual Framework
Determinants in the IEP conceptual framework, such as high levels of education and good relations with neighbors, have also been found in the public health literature to benefit individual and population health.  In contrast, the role the business environment plays in health doesn’t often enter the public health discourse even though it is a prominent determinant of peace. It has already been suggested that achieving public health objectives may be paramount for successful peace building in a post conflict setting,7 but it would be limiting to think that peace can be defined only as the absence of conflict. Peace isn't merely the absence of violence or conflict, but rather it is a condition that exists in the presence of attitudes, institutions, and systems that foster peaceful communities and environments.6

Similarly, the World Health Organization specifies that health isn't merely the absence of disease, but as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.8 Consequently, we must continue working towards the elimination of violence, poverty, hunger, and disease, but we may only be successful when we simultaneously build structural peace.

This framework presents an opportunity for those of us in public health to explore the symbiotic relationship between peace building and public health efforts. We are in a position to collaboratively and collectively work across sectors and disciplines to build and sustain healthy and peaceful communities and environments.

In closing, I'll share a quote from IEP found in the Structures of Peace: Identifying What Leads to Peaceful Societies publication.

"Peace is statistically related to better business environments, higher per capita income, higher educational attainment and stronger social cohesion. Therefore, by establishing the appropriate environment to support peace many other benefits will flow. In this light peace can be seen as a proxy for creating the optimal environment for human potential to flourish."6

An important question remains—where do we go from here?

Thoughtful comments and questions are most welcome.

Tyler Weber, MPH
Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellow
Population Health Institute
University of Wisconsin - Madison


1.      Laaser, U., Donev, D., Bjegoviæ, V., & Sarolli, Y. (2002). Public Health and Peace. Croatian Medical Journal, 43 (2), 107 - 113.
2.      Levy,  B. S. (2002). Health and Peace. Croatian Medical Journal, 43(2), 114 -116.
3.      Macqueen, G., Santa-Barbara, J., Neufeld, V., Yusuf, S., and Horton, R. (2001). Health and Peace: Time for a New Discipline. The Lancet, 357, 1460 - 1461.
4.      Vass, A. (2001). Public Health Through Peace. British Medical Journal, 323 (7320), 1020.
5.      Institute for Economics and Peace. (2012). Institute for Economics and Peace: Quantifying Economics and its Benefits. Retrieved from
6.      Institute for Economics and Peace. (2011). Structures of Peace: Identifying What Leads to Peaceful Societies. Sydney, New York, & Washington, D.C: N. A.
7.      Tasi, T. (2009). Public Health and Peace Building in Nepal. The Lancet, 374, 515 - 516.
8.      Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.