Handbook for the documentation of interpersonal violence prevention programmes
Over the past decades, we have been exposed almost daily to terrible images of human misery caused by deadly conflicts in Iraq, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mass graves, mass rapes, and exodus of people are the most visible part of the “iceberg of violence”. More discreet, but widespread, is the relentless daily suffering of children who are abused by their caregivers, women victimized by partners, elderly persons maltreated by caregivers, and youths who cannot attend school or go about their daily activities without risk of being threatened, beaten or shot. Public health is increasingly taking a stand against accepting violence as an inevitable part of the modern world and is taking action to prevent it. This handbook represents one initiative arising out of a campaign to stop violence, more specifically to halt interpersonal violence.
Interpersonal violence includes child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, youth violence and elder abuse. It takes place in the home, on the streets and in other public settings, in the workplace and in institutions such as schools, hospitals and residential care facilities. In the year 2000, homicides arising from interpersonal violence accounted for a global total of 520 000 deaths. Every death was accompanied by many more non-fatal cases, many requiring emergency medical treatment and a significant proportion resulting in longer term physical and mental health consequences. The direct costs of treating such injuries and their health consequences, and the indirect costs of lost productivity, represent an enormous economic burden to victims, families and society at large. Among these are the large indirect and human costs resulting from damage to the social fabric of communities.
In response to this problem, governments, nongovernmental organizations and communities around the world are actively attempting to prevent interpersonal violence, and international agencies increasingly are providing financial, technical and policy support to strengthen prevention activities and make them more effective. For example, the World report on violence and health, published in October 2002 by the World Health Organization (WHO), included nine recommendations for violence prevention, and the World Health Assembly, African Union and World Medical Association have all adopted resolutions encouraging members to implement these recommendations.
This heightened awareness about the need to prevent interpersonal violence has brought with it the recognition that at local, national, regional and international levels there are serious gaps in our knowledge about prevention programmes. For instance, few countries have any systematic knowledge of how many prevention programmes operate in their different regions, what types of interpersonal violence and risk factors are addressed, which target populations these programmes serve, what intervention strategies they employ and how the programmes attempt to measure and monitor the effectiveness of their work. Such information is critical to strengthening interpersonal violence prevention capacity and improving its effectiveness by identifying and reinforcing programmes that deliver proven and promising interventions, and ensuring that different programmes have consistent goals and methods so that they support each other’s efforts.
To fill this information gap about interpersonal violence prevention activities, WHO’s Injuries and Violence Prevention Department has developed this handbook for the systematic collection of information about interpersonal violence prevention programmes from diverse settings. The handbook aims to capture information about all types of programmes, irrespective of the type of interpersonal violence they deal with, the intervention strategies employed, the level at which they seek to intervene (i.e. individual, relational, community, societal), or the stage of development of the programme. It is applicable to programmes with or without formal mechanisms for monitoring, evaluating and documenting their effects.
Widespread application of this handbook, both in low-to-middle and high income societies, will do much to advance the interpersonal violence prevention field by making visible the important but unseen – and hence largely unacknowledged – work of prevention practitioners everywhere. We therefore encourage all agencies with an interest in strengthening interpersonal violence prevention capacity, to implement the handbook. This will make programmes more visible to policy-makers, donors and other violence prevention practitioners. In addition, the documentation process will assist individual programmes to strengthen their focus, seek to establish mutual goals, share intervention strategies and enable better coordination.
Director, Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention
World Health Organization