- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

The U.N. World Health Organization begins a campaign today targeting crime and domestic violence as the world's No. 1 public health threat, rivaling tuberculosis and malaria as the leading cause of death and disability.

The effort begins with the first-ever "World Report on Violence and Health," to be released this morning. With data from all over the world that has been gathered and compiled, it intends to change the perception of violence and recommend solutions aimed at prevention.

"This is not just a report; it is a global campaign about action, which includes an 18-month effort to keep the world's attention on violence," said Dr. Etienne Krug, director of the WHO's Violence and Injury Prevention Department and chief author of the report.

Dr. Krug said the report and its recommendations will be implemented immediately and the results re-evaluated in a year.

The report suggests that violence is not just a criminal justice problem, but also a public health problem and that the world's efforts should be focused on prevention instead of the aftermath of violence, when it is too late to help victims who have died as a result of the violence.

Mark Rosenberg, executive director of the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, said this report "presents a new idea: Violence can be prevented."

The report suggests that the response to any type of violence does not have to be limited to reacting after the act has taken place.

"This report proposes real changes in the approach to violence," Mr. Rosenberg said.

During the 1996 World Health Assembly, a resolution on violence was created, and a decision to act was made.

The project took three years, included 160 experts and involved 70 countries. The end result is a report, in the form of a book that contains chapters on youth violence, child abuse, violence by intimate partners, abuse of the elderly, sexual violence, self-directed violence and collective violence.

Linda Dahlberg, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's deputy associate director for science in the Division of Violence Prevention and an editor of the report, said this was the first time there has been a comprehensive review of different types of violence, which will increase awareness about each type.

Dr. Krug said that each year 1.6 million violence-related deaths occur globally, comparable to the number of deaths from tuberculosis and malaria.

In South Africa, 50 percent to 80 percent of victims of violent crimes who received medical treatment did not report the incident to the police. In the United States, that figure is 46 percent, according to the report.

In developing this report, Dr. Krug discovered many trends that occurred globally.

Every country has a large proportion of women who have been hit by an intimate partner.

Partner violence and murder studies from Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States produced a startling result: 40 percent to 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their husbands or boyfriends.

Ms. Dahlberg said the United States is much further along than other countries and that the United States is a fine example of the public health approach working to prevent violence.

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