Gun control is a topic fraught with political connotations, however violence prevention is relatively free of it. The health problem of violence presents itself in many forms, including assaults, homicide, suicide, intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, child and adult bullying, and others. All these injuries and psychological impacts are preventable. Not only is there a human toll, but there is an economic impact and stress placed on the entire healthcare system.
These different forms of violence also create educational barriers and generational behaviors that affect health and wellness. Undeniably, violence occurs across all ages, ethnicities, and races. Furthermore, it is both a rural and urban problem, and disadvantaged communities are involved at a higher rate, thus fueling an increase in health inequity. Violence also drives the need for our justice system, which encompasses an entirely different level of health and wellness problems. Additionally, incarceration is a known social determinant of health that negatively predicts good health.
Considering all of this, what is the answer?
The best solution is violence prevention, and we must address the underlying conditions and psyches that lead to this epidemic. Currently, there are federal and state programs dispersed across multiple agencies and departments that seek to address violence. However, there is no coordination amongst the agencies to drive a shared belief in prevention opportunities, learnings, experimentation, etc. And there is a high level of operational inefficiencies. Without such coordination and shared purpose, there remains a solution of regulations that fail to stop violence at its root cause.
All that said, we must embrace violence prevention in a coordinated manner. This means public health, law enforcement, social support networks, the educational system, mental health resources, and the health system all working together. All of these can identify and impact outcomes. Working within boundaries, both at the federal and local levels, these organizations can focus on the needs of their communities in a manner that embraces change. Coordinated Federal support can also aid in the local agency’s needs. They have the potential to drive change towards such a model with a carrot-and-stick approach.
As healthcare providers, we are obligated to focus on violence prevention just as we focus on cancer prevention or any other clinical intervention. Therefore, we need to consider violence as a clinical disease driven by diseases of life and other social situations. Let us come together in our approaches for the betterment of all.