The public health approach

The principles of public health provide a useful framework for both continuing to investigate and understand the causes and consequences of violence and for preventing violence from occurring through primary prevention programmes, policy interventions and advocacy. The activities of VPA are guided by the scientifically-tested and proven principles and recommendations described in the World report on violence and health. This public health approach to violence prevention seeks to improve the health and safety of all individuals by addressing underlying risk factors that increase the likelihood that an individual will become a victim or a perpetrator of violence.

The approach consists of four steps:

  • To define the problem through the systematic collection of information about the magnitude, scope, characteristics and consequences of violence.
  • To establish why violence occurs using research to determine the causes and correlates of violence, the factors that increase or decrease the risk for violence, and the factors that could be modified through interventions.
  • To find out what works to prevent violence by designing, implementing and evaluating interventions.
  • To implement effective and promising interventions in a wide range of settings. The effects of these interventions on risk factors and the target outcome should be monitored, and their impact and cost-effectiveness should be evaluated.

By definition, public health aims to provide the maximum benefit for the largest number of people. Programmes for the primary prevention of violence based on the public health approach are designed to expose a broad segment of a population to prevention measures and to reduce and prevent violence at a population-level.

The steps of the public health approach


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