Perilous Medicine: A Spotlight into the War on Healthcare Workers

November 29, 2021

On November 18, 2021, Global Health Council, the United Nations Foundation, and the International Federation of Red Cross co-hosted an event to celebrate the launch of Len Rubenstein’s Perilous Medicine: The Struggle to Protect Healthcare from the Violence of War

Len Rubenstein is a lawyer who has dedicated his career to fighting for health and human rights. Through personal stories from frontline healthcare workers and a selection of case studies, Perilous Medicine paints a sobering picture of the politicization of healthcare. In times of conflict, healthcare workers are seldom discussed, yet they play a critical role in society’s infrastructure and are subsequently at increased risk for violence. However, this violence is not limited to war zones. It is estimated that as many as 38% of physicians around the world have suffered physical violence in the workplace (WHO, 2021). Despite these staggering statistics, few policies or public health agendas have sought to address this problem. Len Rubenstein sees Perilous Medicine as a potential catalyst to begin these crucial conversations. 

The event culminated with a call to action. An international panel of civil society leaders and community health workers conversed with Len Rubenstein to discuss what a path forward looks like.The panel and participants strongly voiced the following key points in the discussion: 

  • The safety of healthcare workers must be part of the international and national global health security agenda; 
  • Government’s must play a central role in the development and enforcement of protective policies;
  • Governments should provide emotional and psychological support to healthcare workers everywhere (not just in complex settings);
  • Governments, donors and other stakeholders should engage with communities and seek their buy-in to address the safety and security of our public health systems.

The panel unanimously agreed that relationship building, even with combatants, was among one of the most crucial steps needed to mediate conflict and ultimately protect health workers. With this understanding, the global health community should continue to advocate to ensure that healthcare workers are protected and not another casualty of war. To learn more about the book you can visit or listen to the recording of this launch by clicking here