New WHO manual highlights the health burden of youth violence and provides an overview about how to prevent it.
“More and more evidence from around the world indicates that youth violence is preventable”, says Dr Etienne Krug, Director of WHO’s Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.
Each year an estimated 200 000 young people aged 10–29 years are murdered, making homicide the fourth leading cause of death in young people globally. In addition, millions of young people sustain violence-related injuries that require emergency medical treatment, and countless others go on to develop mental health problems and adopt high-risk behaviours such as smoking and alcohol and drug abuse as a result of their exposure to violence.
One of the greatest obstacles to effectively preventing youth violence has been the lack of information on what works and what interventions are feasible to implement, in particular in low- and middle-income countries. To respond to this gap, WHO released a new manual Preventing youth violence: an overview of the evidence.
Produced with the support of the Jacobs Foundation, German International Cooperation (GIZ), and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the manual aims to help policy-makers and planners – particularly in settings with limited human and financial resources – to address youth violence using an evidence-informed approach. It does so by:
• reviewing data on the burden of youth violence;
• describing risk and protective factors for youth violence;
• describing and reviewing the evidence of what works to prevent youth violence; and
• outlining concrete steps that policy-makers and planners can undertake to scale-up efforts to address youth violence.
The core part of the manual is a review of the evidence of interventions that aim to prevent youth violence before it occurs, incorporating a life-course approach that recognizes how behaviour in the present is shaped by earlier developmental stages. For this purpose, 21 strategies that aim to reduce youth violence were reviewed. The review included:
• parenting and early childhood development strategies;
• school-based academic and social skills development strategies;
• strategies for young people at higher risk of violence; and
• community and society level strategies, such as interventions aiming to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, problem oriented policing, and urban upgrading.
“More and more evidence from around the world indicates that youth violence is preventable,” said Dr Etienne Krug, Director of WHO’s Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention. “Violence shatters the lives of young people. With the right policies and programmes in place, we should be able to end this threat to the health and well-being of so many.”
The manual concludes that significant reductions in levels of youth violence can be made, if interventions are based on scientific evidence; build upon existing capacities, programmes, assets and infrastructure; and involve a coordinated response among the different sectors that are essential for youth violence prevention.