War and conflict have profound, deleterious effects on the health of individuals, communities, and nations. How can health institutions work on efforts to reduce conflict and create peace? The first critical step is to define and measure peace.
Initiative for peace creation
The objective of the Initiative for Peace Creation (IPC) is to measure peace through the development of appropriate tests that can be administered to individuals within communities across the globe. Measuring peace can contribute to re-shaping the way the world grapples with a problem that silences voices, disrupts economies, and destabilizes nations. Though efforts have been made in the avenue of building peace through health as evidenced by the World Health Organization's "Health as a Bridge for Peace" project, we remain in our developmental stages when dealing with this subject.
The Division's impetus for peace creation comes from its recent health work in post-conflict Southern Sudan. In the course of conducting trainings of healthcare workers on topics ranging from obstetric ultrasound to neonatal resuscitation, Division leaders began to wonder what effects these health interventions had on community peace.
The Division, in partnership with colleagues in MGH Psychiatry, is engaged in a multi-stage process to measure peace in a rigorous way. These stages include:
Developing a consensus definition of peace by convening an expert panel
Identifying salient theoretical constructs that comprise our definition of peace
Developing a pilot psychometric instrument on individual and community perceptions of peace.
Subsequently, the pilot peace measurement tool will be fine-tuned through a series of onsite testing of individuals in conflict-ridden regions.
The IPC has immediate applications for enhancing solidarity among peoples challenged by conditions that favor disharmony. It provides a reference point to work from as we examine what interventions can improve the conditions of peace in a community. In much the same manner as a clinical evaluation, the use of a peace index can help "diagnose" problems at a community level and determine what intervention is necessary to improve the condition. These interventions may include: micro financing, agricultural assistance, establishment of a health clinic, basic education and health literacy, among other possibilities.