A public health approach to tackling serious violence

Rosie Horton, Senior Communications Officer
Thursday 23rd August 2018

Alongside many other organisations we are supportive of a public health approach to tackling serious violence. The most crucial aspect for us is that young people are at the heart of any work, whether that’s developing a strategy, designing programmes, leading on interventions or monitoring and evaluation. Without their voices a crucial part of the jigsaw will always be missing. ­


Why we think a public health approach is needed, and the importance of young people being at the heart of making it work

A public health approach considers violence as a health issue that can spread through the population, like a disease. To tackle it, firstly you need to prevent it from spreading and then treat the underlying causes to reduce the chances of it breaking out again.

One of the benefits of a public health approach is that it focuses on treatment and behaviour change, rather than punishment. This removal of judgement has been proven to be more cost-effective and positive when supporting people with drug and alcohol addiction, smoking and obesity, and could be as effective when supporting those who are violent or affected by violence.

People are rarely born as addicts, the same way people are rarely born violent. By understanding what lies behind violence we can make sure young people are supported at crucial moments in their lives – when they are excluded from school, affected by poor relationships and family breakdowns, bullied, experiencing trauma or victims of violence themselves.

We know that these factors can lead to a higher likelihood of committing violence in the future. By combining an approach that tackles current violence as well as investing in support for young people in a preventative, ‘treatment’ led way, we can prevent on-going and future violence from occuring.

Whilst a public health approach frames violence as a health issue, health organisations make up only one part of the jigsaw. For this to really work people need to be involved at all levels – including national and local governments, housing associations, schools, youth workers, charities, prisons, hospitals, residential children’s homes and foster carers, and most importantly young people themselves. Without their voices at the heart of any approach there will be a reduced likelihood of success.

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