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A Timeline of Violence as a Public Health Issue

Phase One: Building the Case for Violence Prevention


  • The United States (U.S.) Surgeon General's Report, Healthy People, identified stress and violent behavior among the key priority areas for public health. 
  • Healthy People emphasized that "the health community cannot ignore the consequences of violent behavior in efforts to improve health."


  • A landmark Department of Health and Human Services report, Promoting Health/Preventing Disease: Objectives for the Nation, established goals for violence prevention.


  • CDC epidemiologists began one of the first collaborative efforts with law enforcement to investigate a series of child murders in Georgia.


  • CDC established the Violence Epidemiology Branch to focus its public health efforts in violence prevention.


  • The Surgeon General's Workshop on Violence and Public Health focused the attention of the public health world on violence and encouraged all health professionals to become involved.
  • CDC investigated a pattern of suicides in Texas, the first demonstrated use of field epidemiological techniques to identify suicide clusters.  
  • The Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health was released and underscored the importance of addressing interpersonal violence as a public health problem and identified homicide as a major contributor to health disparities among African-Americans.


  • CDC established the Division of Injury Epidemiology and Control.


  • The Secretary of Health and Human Service's Task Force released the Report on Youth Suicide.

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Phase Two: Conducting and Synthesizing the Science


  • "Violent and Abusive Behavior" was included as 1 of 22 public health priority areas in Healthy People 2000, the national disease-prevention and health-promotion strategy. It called for "cooperation and integration across public health, health care, mental health, criminal justice, social service, education, and other relevant sectors."


  • Congress approved appropriations for youth violence prevention.
  • A landmark issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association addressed violence as a public health issue.


  • CDC established the Division of Violence Prevention, one of three within the newly created National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The Division leads CDC's efforts to prevent injuries and deaths caused by violence. 
  • CDC published The Prevention of Youth Violence: A Framework for Community Action to mobilize communities to effectively address the epidemic of youth violence sweeping the nation.


  • Congress approved appropriations for intimate partner violence prevention.
  • CDC and the National Institute of Justice collaborated on the National Violence against Women Survey. The survey, conducted in 1995-1996, provided the first national data on the incidence and prevalence of violence against women.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that "violence is a leading worldwide public health problem."
  • Congress passed funding for rape prevention education block grants.


  • CDC published Best Practices of Youth Violence Prevention: A Sourcebook for Community Action.
  • The U.S. Surgeon General released the Call to Action to Prevent Suicide report.

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Phase Three: Moving Toward Implementation


  • WHO created the Department for Injuries and Violence Prevention.
  • CDC received congressional appropriations for the National Academic Centers of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention.


  • The U.S. Surgeon General released a report on youth violence.
  • The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention released by the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • CDC's Division of Violence Prevention is reorganized to include the Etiology and Surveillance Branch, the Prevention Development and Evaluation Branch, and the Program Implementation and Dissemination Branch. The Division continues to encourage excellence in all areas of public health directed at preventing violence.
  • First congressional appropriations for child maltreatment prevention approved.


  • WHO released the World Report on Violence and Health.
  • The National Violent Death Reporting System launched in 6 states. This was the first state-based surveillance system to link data from multiple sources with the goal of enhancing violence prevention efforts.


  • The National Violent Death Reporting System expanded to include 17 states.


  • CDC launched Choose Respect, the first national communication initiative designed to prevent unhealthy relationship behaviors and dating abuse.


  • CDC published a study that estimated the cost of violence in the United States exceeds $70 billion each year.

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