Violence Is a Contagious Disease: Theory and Practice in the USA and Abroad
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Violence is fundamentally a health issue, which is a predictable result of exposure, contagion, and trauma. Further, health and public health methods—and in particular epidemic disease control methods—have been proven effective in reducing violence without the major toxicities commonly caused by many criminal justice approaches. Violence is the only public health issue not primarily managed by the health sector. The Cure Violence approach uses standard epidemic control methods to detect and interrupt violent events, identify and change behavior among the highest-risk persons and groups, and shift the group and community norms.
As of the beginning of 2018, in more than 100 communities across 16 countries, the Cure Violence Health Model has been implemented and adapted to address community violence, as well as other types of violence, including prison, school, sectarian, and ideologically inspired violence. Multiple evaluations of the Cure Violence Health Model have shown strong effects on violence, including a reduction in shootings of up to 73% in Chicago, 63% in New York City, and 44% in Baltimore. In Latin America, the Cure Violence Health Model has led to reductions of 88% in shootings and killings in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; 67% in woundings in Port of Spain, Trinidad; and 50% in killings in several communities in Juarez, Mexico. Additionally, the Cure Violence approach has been shown to shift norms such that persons are more likely to reject the use of violence and more likely to trust local police; this model has also demonstrated several other positive results related to employment, education, and parenting. In this paper, we describe in detail how the components of Cure Violence are implemented and review the applications and impact of the model to date. It is long overdue for the health and public health sectors to step up and use this and other related and connected methods to eliminate this epidemic, as the health sector has done for so many other epidemic diseases and problems.
KeywordsViolence Contagious Trauma Epidemic Health Public Health Outreach Interruption Aggression
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