At the World Health Assembly in 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared violence "a leading worldwide public health problem" and called for public health strategies to address it. The WHO's call to action, as well as an international political movement that is gaining strength, has helped galvanize health professionals in many countries to employ the tools of public health and their medical skills to better understand the causes of violence, to use research findings to influence policy, and to animate statistics with a human face. This paper reviews the scope of the problem, with a focus on armed violence with small arms and light weapons. It presents a history of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War's (IPPNW) involvement in this issue. A case example from IPPNW/ Zambia demonstrates how health community involvement can raise awareness about armed violence and its risk factors, and influence policy changes.