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E G Krug, L Dahlberg, J Mercy, A Zwi, R Lozano. (Pp 346; US$27.00). Geneva: WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data, 2002. ISBN 92-4-154561-5
Violence was declared in Resolution WHA49.25 (1996) as a major and growing public health problem across the world. This is the first world report on violence and health aimed mainly to raise awareness about the issue of violence globally and to make the case that violence is preventable and that public health has a crucial part to play in tackling its causes and consequences.
The report has been structured in nine chapters, starting with a general one of violence as a global public health problem, followed by specific information about different types of interpersonal violence (youth violence, child abuse, violence against intimate partners, abuse of elderly people, and sexual abuse), self directed violence (suicide), and collective violence, and completed by nine recommendations for research and actions at local, national, and international levels. The report also includes a statistical annex with estimated mortality caused by each kind of violence and a list of internet resources.
It provides further information about the magnitude and impact of each type of violence reported; identifies risk factors like social, cultural, and economical stressors and determines as precipitant factors the presence of alcohol, drugs or weapons; it also gives an account of the types of intervention and policy responses that have been already used and summarises what is known about their effectiveness.
The most important strength of this report is the efforts implied to summarise what is known about this problem around the world. It is a useful document for those who are involved in research or prevention on violence. However, the lack of information to complete a global approach about the risk and protective factors, interventions, and evaluation of the effectiveness of policy responses is recognised.
This weakness has tried to be solved by the recommendations for action. However, most of them are not new and not practical enough for those who are dedicated to this issue.
On the one hand, the recommendations about how to create, implement, and monitor a national action plan for violence prevention, to increase capacity for collecting data on violence, to support research on the causes, consequences, costs, and prevention of violence and to promote primary prevention responses have been already well documented. In the same way, other official documents have already shown evidence about the importance of training for health and education professional, the coordination between public and private sectors, and the strengthening of the community base.
On the other hand, the recommendations related to the importance of producing information about the cost of violence for health services and the prevention in primary health are much too narrow to speak about a true public health approach on violence.
Although it provides useful information about each type of violence in each country, a comprehensive account of the resources needed to cope with violence from a public health perspective is lacking through the book.
For these reasons, this first world report on violence and health can be considered as a valuable starting point about research responses to an old social and public health problem.