Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Violence as a Public Health Issue

Written By: Jason Shafrin - May• 04•08

Can we think of issues related to violent crime as basically similar to that of a contagious disease?  This is the question an article in the N.Y. Times Magazine (“Blocking the Transmission of Violence“) attempts to answer.

Violence may spread like an epidemic; murders lead to revenge killings, which lead to more revenge killings.  Stopping the “transmission” of violence at its source is the goal of Gary Slutkin and his CeaseFire organization.  “CeaseFire tries to deal with these quarrels on the front end. [Interrupters’] job is to suss out smoldering disputes and to intervene before matters get out of hand.”

This is a radical approach, but will it work?

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  1. Why do we have to think of it as akin to a infectious disease to think of it as a public health issue? Surely public health policies are not limited merely to infectious diseases, as many of our most pressing public health issues do not fit within traditional models of ID, including most chronic illnesses.

    If, for example, you believe the good evidence that social and economic conditions are primary determinants of health, it becomes obvious that violence is indeed a public health concern. Richard Wilkinson, among others, has made a career out of documenting the significantly higher rates of violence that attend societies with larger wealth disparities. In turn, the evidence that such societies sustain significantly lower health outcomes suggests that violence may play a significant role in promoting or undermining public health.

    My question — not so much for you as in general — is who really believes that violence is NOT a public health concern?