Health-based approach may help ID groups at risk of genocide

September 19, 2011

Researchers from North Carolina State University are proposing a health-based approach to identifying groups at high risk of genocide, in a first-of-its-kind attempt to target international efforts to stop these mass killings before they start.

Genocide, or the willful attempt to exterminate a specific population, is a violation of international law. In recent years, international discussion of genocide has focused in part on finding ways to identify populations at risk in order to prevent a problem before it starts.

Some have already been identified, such as severe state oppression of a group or a regional history of genocide. Now researchers are offering a new risk factor for consideration: a population's health and its track record of .

"This is a data-driven approach that we developed by analyzing the remains of genocide victims. There can be no confusion or claims of inaccurate reporting from third parties. The bodies of the victims speak for themselves," says Dr. Ann Ross, professor of at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research and proposed risk factor. This effort marks the first time researchers have used skeletal analysis to assess the overarching health of genocide victims before their murder.

Ross and her co-author, former NC State graduate student Ashley Maxwell, began by analyzing remains of Bosnian Muslims from the Srebrenica massacre – where 8,000 men and boys were killed in 1995. Ross is a forensic anthropologist and worked extensively in the Balkans during the late 1990s to help identify the remains of genocide victims.

The researchers found that the Srebrenica victims had an unusually high frequency of malnutrition, poor health and inadequate prenatal care. For example, the victims had a high rate of spina bifida, which is directly related to poor nutrition and prenatal care.

"These conditions are good indicators of genocide risk because they illustrate the population's marginalized status," Ross says.

The researchers also examined epidemiological data from the World Health Organization on the general health of refugees from Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Those data were consistent with the forensic assessment of the Srebrenica victims.

"This gives politicians and international bodies another tool that can be used to identify – and protect – populations facing ," Ross says. "We need to prevent these mass murders, not sit on our hands wondering when to take action."

Explore further: Program improves health of orphans of Rwandan genocide

More information: The paper, "Epidemiology of Genocide: An Example from the Former Yugoslavia," will be published in the fall issue of Forensic Science Policy and Management.

Related Stories

Program improves health of orphans of Rwandan genocide

August 8, 2011
Rwandan children who lived through the horrors of the 1994 genocide may suffer from psychological trauma that makes them more vulnerable to health problems, such as HIV infection. But a medical school study shows that with ...

Recommended for you

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

Best of Last Year – The top Medical Xpress articles of 2016

December 23, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—It was a big year for research involving overall health issues, starting with a team led by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health who unearthed more evidence that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.