Medact grew out of the medical peace movement. It was formed in 1992 as a merger of two organisations: the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW), and the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW).
After the merger of MAPW and MCANW, the newly-formed Medact recognised the need to adopt a broader global health agenda – one that would incorporate the health threats posed by climate change as well as the structural violence of unjust economic policies and systems.
Since then, Medact has been working to mobilise, support and organise health professionals to be more effective social agents for social change. A relaunch conference in 2013 marked a further milestone in revitalising Medact and confirming its future course.
Today Medact, led by Dr David McCoy, a prominent public health physician and academic, is flourishing and proud to be continuing the work begun by its far-sighted predecessor organisations.
Medact and its predecessor organisations have their archives housed at the Wellcome Library and Bradford University.
1951 – Founding of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW)
1982 – Founding of Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW)
1992 – Medact is formed in a merger of MAPW and MCANW
2013 – Conference relaunches Medact with a broad agenda encompassing health; peace and security; economic justice; climate and environment; and human rights.
The Medical Peace Movement
Health professionals have a long history of speaking out against war. In the 20th century, the cornerstone of the medical peace movement was the responsibility of doctors to protect human life. This responsibility necessitated treating not only individuals and their medical problems, but also the social problems that lead to death, injury and illness (both physical and psychological).
The Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) was founded as a medical lobby for peace, beginning in 1951 with a letter in the Lancet signed by distinguished doctors including Sir Richard Doll (famous for his work on the link between lung cancer and smoking), Horace Joules and Lionel Penrose. They penned this letter at the height of the Korean War, to express their concern about the arms race, the impact of arms spending on health care and the apparent drift towards another world war.
The Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW) was formed in 1980 to highlight the medical implications of a nuclear attack and to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
MCANW and MAPW worked closely together, and merged in 1992 to form Medact. Medact is also the UK affiliate of the 1985 Nobel Prize winning organisation International Physicians for the Prevention of War (IPPNW).
Today, Medact has a broader agenda – incorporating the health threats posed by climate change and structural violence as well as violent conflict. Medact continues to promote disarmament; seek the abolition of nuclear weapons; and reduce the power and influence of the global military-industrial complex. It promotes the universal right to health as a platform for peacebuilding and more effective international diplomacy and cooperation.