Violence is a significant public health issue that prevents people from living life to the fullest. The violence we experience takes different forms, including child maltreatment, elder abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, youth violence, and suicide. On an individual level, violence accounts for over 55,000 deaths each year from the intentional use of physical force or power against oneself, another person, or a group or community. An additional 2.3 million individuals are treated in U.S. emergency departments for nonfatal violence-related injuries. Individuals who survive violence are often left with permanent scars that are both physical and emotional. Violence has been linked to mental health issues like depression and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and asthma. On a community level, violence reduces productivity, decreases property values, and disrupts social services. Violence costs $85.4 billion in medical costs and lost productivity each year.
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Violence affects people of all stages of life, ethnicities and communities. There is not one issue in isolation that puts a person at risk for violence and having risk factors does not always mean someone will become violent or a victim. A person’s characteristics and experiences play important roles and so do their relationships with friends and family and the characteristics of the community where they live. Individuals have a higher risk for violence if they have emotional and substance use difficulties, impulsive or aggressive tendencies, and weak coping and problem-solving skills. The likelihood of violence is increased when people live in communities with high levels of residential instability, crime and gang activity, drug use or sales, unemployment, and poverty. Unsupervised access to firearms is also a contributing risk for lethal violence.
Violence is a public health issue that can be prevented. Communities can stop violence before it starts with comprehensive prevention approaches that strengthen the skills, health, and safety of its residents, schools, and neighborhoods. Effective violence prevention includes helping individuals and families strengthen their communication skills and the ability to solve problems in non-violent ways. Youth, parents, public health, local businesses, faith leaders, and other community leaders also can work together to put in place approaches that improve public safety and increase opportunities for positive social interactions between neighbors. Creating a healthy and safe built environment is an important part communities breaking the cycle of violence and supporting residents in having healthy and violence-free lifestyles.
Violence is a huge public health problem that has huge monetary, physical and emotional costs. Violence comes in many forms and affects individuals of all backgrounds across the country. However, violence can be prevented through efforts to create healthy people and communities. By working together, community members can transform their neighborhoods into safer communities that support children and adults in breaking the cycle of violence.
Rhonda lives in South Central Los Angeles with her 8-year-old daughter Jessica. The area that they live in is often subject to gang activity and violent crime and so even though Jessica loves to play outside, Rhonda tries to keep her inside as much as possible. She lost her older brother to violence when they were teenagers and worries about her daughter’s safety in the area. Her concern about safety is shared by many people in her neighborhood and they decide to start an effort to better their community. They organize a park clean up day and make an effort to support more local businesses and talk with their city council about strategies for better public transportation in the area. Over time, Rhonda begins to feel much safer in her neighborhood and enjoys taking Jessica to the park to do what she enjoys most, play outside.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Violence Prevention [Internet]. Retrieved on Jun 28, 2013 from: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/index.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; Retrieved on Jun 28, 2013 from: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html