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Treating violence as a public health problem

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 05 October 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:726

The approach has advantages but diminishes the human rights perspective

  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner (
  1. Caversham Group Practice, Kentish Town, London NW5 2UP

    News p 731

    In every country, to a greater or lesser extent, violence blights lives and undermines health. Acknowledging this, in 1996 the 49th World Health Assembly adopted a resolution (WHA49.25) declaring violence a major and growing public health problem across the world. The resolution ended by calling for a plan of action for progress towards a science based public health approach to preventing violence. The World Health Organization defines violence as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or a group or community, that either results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.1 In 2000, an estimated 1.6 million people died as a result of violence. Many more suffered injury. Of the deaths, nearly half were suicides, almost a third were homicides—of whom 57 000 were of children—and about a fifth were related to war. This week, the WHO published the World Report on Violence and Health.2 The report includes sections on youth violence, child abuse, violence by intimate partners, abuse of …

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