Statement from Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), in the wake of this week’s tragic shootings

This week’s tragedies that have taken the lives of Americans in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Dallas bring to light a significant danger to our well-being: the presence of hate, often fueled by fear, resentment, displaced anger and/or racism.

There may be no greater threat to our health and well-being than hate. It is the driving force behind a countless number of preventable deaths and injuries, commonly from violence.

Reducing violence is imperative to achieve APHA’s vision of becoming the healthiest nation. We cannot reach our wellness goal in a society afflicted with hatred for other people. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Our stance on violence prevention is not about blaming, shaming and dividing people. And it’s not just about reaching our goal. It’s about serving all communities, and bringing diverse groups of people together in ways that promote healthy community environments — and also promote peace. When hate toward others threatens our health, we must put politics aside to work together and address the root causes of violence.

APHA works tirelessly to prevent all forms of violence, including gun violence. Communities that work to build understanding, mutual respect and racial harmony will help get us there.

Let this be a call to all Americans to join together in an effort to eliminate hate, promote peace and build a healthy society together. We stand ready to do our part.