In line with recommendations by the World Health Organisation, IF Foundation utilises a public health platform to preventing violence in our communities.
Why Prevention Must Be a Priority
Preventing youth violence is a vital part of promoting the health and safety of youth and communities, and here are some of the reasons why:
- Young people cannot learn and succeed in life if they are afraid to go to school or work because of fear of harm.
- Children cannot play if their neighborhoods and playgrounds are unsafe.
- Violence increases health care costs, decreases property values, disrupts social services, and threatens the success of businesses.
- When youth violence occurs, quality of life diminishes, and communities cannot thrive.
Making youth violence prevention a top priority is thus critical to the short- and long-term health, safety, and viability of a community.
What is Youth Violence Prevention?
Youth violence is a complex problem that requires coordinated efforts at all points along a continuum of action. Along this continuum of action are:
- Prevention strategies that stop youth violence before it happens, and
- Intervention and treatment strategies that respond to youth violence after it happens.
We must respond to violence after it has already occurred to deter the increase of violence and address some of the physical and emotional consequences of violence. Intervention and treatment strategies include law enforcement and medical and mental health services.
But response to violence is only part of the solution. We must take steps to stop youth violence from happening in the first place. Youth violence prevention—actions taken to keep harm from happening—is the indispensible complement to response.
The goal of prevention is simple: to stop youth violence from happening in the first place. Similar to the way brushing and flossing aim to stop what can cause cavities and gum disease before there is a problem, youth violence prevention efforts focus on reducing the factors that put young people at risk for violence (risk factors), and increasing the factors that help protect them from violence (protective factors).
What is a Public Health Based Approach to Violence Prevention
Preventing violence before it occurs requires a balanced effort that addresses the complex factors underlying violence and builds on the assets of youth, families, and communities. A “public health approach to preventing violence” is comprehensive and multidisciplinary in nature, and aims to minimize the negative and maximize the positive.
The public health approach to youth violence is similar to the public health approach to all other injuries or health problems. It starts with finding the populations and locations at greatest risk, uncovering risk and protective factors, and developing and using evidence-based strategies and programs to address violence at the individual, family, community, and societal levels.
Fundamental tenets of the public health approach include:
- Primary prevention orientation: Efforts are designed to prevent violence before it occurs.
- Data-driven: Decisions and actions are based on data that describe the nature of the problem as well as contributing risk and protective factors (i.e., decisions made are based on data that answer basic questions such as who, what, why, where, when, for how long, etc.).
- Evidence-based: Strategies implemented to address the problem are based upon the best available research and evidence.
- Collaborative: Partners from all sectors of the community, including public health, law enforcement, education, recreation, economic development, mental health, social services, substance abuse, business, and others, work together to produce change.
- Population-based: Actions taken focus on community-wide or “environmental” solutions that benefit the entire community.
Domains of a PBH Approach
The approach targets four levels:
This approach is science‐driven, population‐based, interdisciplinary, and intersectoral. It emphasizes primary prevention that aims to prevent violence before it occurs; is based on the ecological model that views violence not as the outcome of any single risk factor but of multiple risk factors and causes that interact at all four levels of a nested hierarchy comprising the individual, family/close relationship, community and society; and adopts a life‐course perspective based upon understanding how influences early in life can act as risk factors for problems at later stages.
Individual Level Influences
- are biological and personal factors that increase the likelihood of an individual becoming the victim or perpetrator of violence. These include factors such as alcohol and drug use, impulsive behaviour, a childhood history of maltreatment or witnessing domestic violence. Proven individual prevention strategies include pre-school enrichment programmes during early childhood (ages 3-5 years) and life skills training and social development programmes for children aged 6 to 18 years.
Relationship Level Influences
- are factors within the family, and in friendship and peer networks that increase the risk of violence. Proven family prevention strategies include providing training for parents on child development, non-violent discipline and problem -solving skills and mentoring programmes to develop attachments between high risk youth and caring adults in order to build social skills and provide a sustained relationship.
Societal Level Influences
- are the larger, macro level factors that influence violence such as gender equality, societal norms, economic or social conditions that support general inequalities. In society, strategies that are proven and promising include reducing alcohol availability and misuse through enactment and enforcement of liquor licensing laws, taxation and pricing; reducing access to lethal means, including firearms, sedatives and pesticides; and promoting gender equality through strategies such as supporting the economic empowerment of women
Community Level Influences
- include factors at school, in neighbourhoods and in workplaces that increase risk. They include a lack of education, a lack of vocational opportunities, and cultural norms that legitimize violence. Proven and promising community prevention strategies include increasing the availability and quality of childcare facilities and increasing the availability and quality of pre-school enrichment programmes.