Making violence a public health issue in the region

I think it’s the the region starts approaching violence prevention as a public health issue, and not just a law enforcement or social justice one. In categorizing it as such, it affords the opportunity to define the problem beyond deviance and to seek the underlying issues facilitating such behavior. For indeed, many of these issues are behavioral in nature. Having lived in the Virgin Islands and experiences first-hand the effects of crime and violence on my family, I know there are serious causes affecting the crime rate and demonizing those involved in violence has not been getting us far.

I have also seen the rise in news stories from across the region on crime rates. Today, it is the Bahamas. Tomorrow, it will be another island discussing the rising crime rate. There are several recourses that local leaders can access if they want to reframe the problem. First, the WHO publication Violence – a public health problem, defines violence within the context of public health and offers ways to address the issue, saying, “The public health approach to any problem is interdisciplinary and science-based.” And, “The public health approach also emphasizes collective action.” One of the reasons I gravitated to public health was its focus on prevention and interventions. Within these areas, Caribbean communities can design multi-faceted, locally and culturally-relevant responses to violence. It begins with understanding your society and community and understanding the impact of violence on the health of people.

The Center’s for Disease Control also has excellent resources on various types of violence and public health approaches to violence prevention. Beyond violent crime, they address sexual violence, intimate partner violence, youth violence and more. Close to home, they can also draw on resources from PAHO Violence and Injury Prevention unit.

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