The Journal of Public Health Policy just released a special issue on violence prevention, co-edited by Prevention Institute and colleagues from Public Health Ontario and Yale University’s Law and Psychiatry Division. The series was inspired by the United Nation’s (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which, for the first time, recognized violence prevention as integral to global sustainable development. The Agenda calls on member states to “significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere” and places violence as the top priority within an overarching goal to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.” Violence is thus cast as an explicit and central measurement of societal health – no longer just a symptom or sub-issue. Special thanks to the Violence and Injury Prevention division of the World Health Organization (WHO) for their leadership in advancing this important work.
Violence and Health: Merging Evidence and Implementation includes 10 articles by scholars and practitioners that outline ways to advance and deepen the conversation on effective global strategies and best local practices for preventing violence. The goal of the series is to provide the next generation of violence prevention strategies necessary to achieve the radical transformation that the UN’s 2030 Agenda outlines.
A key emphasis of the Special Supplement is to encourage the academic field to move beyond the conceptual or theoretical and to foster partnerships with practitioners. It’s vital that practitioners no longer consider theory to be distant from practice, and researchers don’t lose sight of what demands urgent analysis, while the needs of the community go unmet. Another important element is to encourage collaboration across disciplines.
Contributors comprise members of the World Health Organization Violence Prevention Alliance (a network of WHO Member States, international agencies and civil society organizations that addresses the risk factors leading to violence), which includes Prevention Institute (PI), the World Bank, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Danish Institute Against Torture, the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Gender Violence and Health Centre, and the Yale University Law and Psychiatry Division.
Leading off the series is a joint commentary - Violence, health, and the 2030 agenda: Merging evidence and implementation - co-authored by Bandy Lee, Peter D. Donnelly, Shikha Garg, and PI’s Larry Cohen. They write:
Halting the destruction of violence and advancing people’s ability to thrive on this planet requires ensuring that academic theory and research are relevant to the kind of work and change that is needed on the ground. As much as the violence prevention field has emphasized evidence-based practice, the pursuit of evidence has largely missed input from practitioners and community members, leading to less than optimal real-world applicability. In addition, while practitioners and policymakers have deemed urgent the need for research that is relevant to low- and middle-income countries, where 90 per cent of global violence happens, only 10 per cent of violence scholarship arises out of these settings, where there are fewer resources and experimentation is difficult. This must change in light of the UN goals of peaceful and inclusive societies.
In one article in the series, Communities are not all created equal: Strategies to prevent violence affecting youth in the United States, PI’s Larry Cohen, Anna Realini, and Rachel Davis detail the crucial connection between violence and equity:
Safety distribution across populations is unequal, while public health research has identified aspects of community environments that affect the likelihood of violence, or risk and resilience factors. An overwhelming number of risk factors have accumulated in some US communities, disproportionately impacting young people of color. US policies, systems, and institutions powerfully shape how and where these factors manifest. Violence is preventable, not inevitable.
The article details how comprehensive strategies to improve community conditions can reduce violence and promote health equity. It describes how PI tools and frameworks, used by our Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) cities, can be adapted for international application in multi-sector collaboration, influencing policy and legislation, and strengthening local violence prevention efforts.
The Journal of Public Health Policy special issue and the UN’s 2030 Agenda recognize that before our communities can be healthy, equitable, and resilient, they must be safe. Violence and the fear of violence shape the lives of individuals, communities, and nations in myriad ways, determining whether people will be healthy, free to live their lives, able to raise their families in peace, study, work and thrive—or not. This is a critical time to take what we know about how to prevent violence and build a sustainable, collaborative movement to mobilize political will, shift the public understanding of violence, invest in communities of greatest need, advance a comprehensive policy agenda, challenge and change the norms that perpetuate violence, and scale up successful strategies to prevent violence and trauma in the first place.