Taking a public health approach to violence involves treating it in the same way as a disease and applying the same public health principles to tacking it. This isn’t always straightforward as violence will change over time and is influenced by individual, relationship, community and societal factors.
Step One: Data
There are lots of places you can find information about “who”, “what”, “when”, “where” and “how” violence happens. These include data collected by the police, hospitals, surveys and many other places. None of these will give a complete picture because a lot of violence is never reported. If you look at police data you will tend to see who is involved in perpetrating violence, what sort of violence happens and where and when it happens. If you look at hospital data you’ll see some of the same things but also who it happens to-the victims.
An interesting thing to think about is why violence happens-we’ll come back to that in another lesson
Step Two: Risk and Protective Factors
Once you have data you can start to spot trends that can suggest some risk factors for violence. This will depend on the sort of violence you are looking at. For interpersonal violence affecting young people those might include being male, carrying a weapon and living in areas of deprivation. Those don’t make violence inevitable they just make the risk of it occurring higher. You can also look for protective factors and those might include things like engaging with education and having a peer group who are not supportive of violence.
Step Three: Developing and Testing interventions
When developing interventions for violence you need to think about where on the spectrum of violence you are trying to have an effect.
You might be trying to prevent violence from happening in the first place – this is primary prevention – and that’s what we are trying to do with our MAV Schools programme, we talk to lots of young people even though we know most of you will never be involved in violence because it helps to provide you with the knowledge you need to make safe choices.
You might want to work with people who are more at risk of violence or who have already been involved in violence – that’s called secondary prevention – and it aims to stop violence happening again.
Secondary prevention might include things like alcohol advice for people who have been victims of assault while they or their assailant have been drinking or speaking to young people who are in prison for the first time.
The last sort of prevention is tertiary prevention. Tertiary prevention aims to help people who are already involved in violence and experiencing serious consequences. These interventions are always more intensive and involve working with individuals and communities to support them to change very ingrained patterns of behaviour. Tertiary prevention usually works with smaller numbers of individuals and our Navigator programme is a good example of that.
Step 4: Scaling up
Once you have something that works you just need to work hard to reach as many people as possible. That’s why we are continuing to expand our successful Navigator programme across the country and reach as many of Scotland’s secondary schools as possible.