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The role of public health in the prevention of violence: a statement from the United Kingdom Faculty of Public Health

Public health and health services communities around the globe have a long tradition of working for health improvement, transcending narrow economic and political concerns and the self-interest of individuals, ethnic groups, religions or countries. The need to reaffirm this global and collective ethic has never been stronger.

Public health has brought together humankind in a spirit of co-operation and mutual support. The eradication of small pox and the near eradication of polio are perhaps the best examples of this spirit. The all-embracing world health strategies of ‘Health for all by the year 2000’, ‘Health 21’  and now ‘Health 2020’  have expressed wider aspirations, including solidarity between nations and reducing inequalities in economic status, health experience and life chances.

‘Health promotion is peace promotion’  – the activity of improving population health inherently strives to reduce inequalities, to achieve fairness, and tackle environmental, economic and social causes of ill health.  There is also a need to strengthen national and international public health networks, as shown by the Ebola crisis.

Violence is a major public health problem. We believe it has been given insufficient attention and priority in the arena of public health policy, partnerships and interventions. A public health approach to violence prevention involves, measuring health needs arising from violence, determining causes and solutions to problems, advocating effective interventions and mobilising partnerships to improve health and prevent or control the harmful effects of violence.

These functions, in respect to violence prevention, mitigation and control, apply to all levels of violence – in domestic and local situations, with conflicts between communities, within countries and international violence.  This paper sets out the roles of public health practitioners and the role of the public health system in preventing, mitigating and responding to violence.