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date: 22 October 2017

Violence and Health

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Global Public Health. Please check back later for the full article.

Violence is a problem that accompanies the trajectory of humanity, but which presents itself in different ways in each society and throughout its historical development. Despite having different meanings according to the field of knowledge from which it is addressed and with the institutions that tackle it, there are some common elements in the definition of this phenomenon. It is acknowledged as the intentional use of force and power by individuals, groups, classes, and countries to impose themselves on others, causing harm and limiting or denying their rights. Its most frequent and visible forms, such as homicides, suicides, war, and terrorism, are articulated and manifested in less visible but also harmful forms, such as gender violence, domestic violence, or enforced disappearances.

Although attention to the consequences of different forms of violence has always been part of health services, its formal and global inclusion in health sector policies and guidelines is very recent. It was only in 1996 that the World Health Organization acknowledged it as a priority in the knowledge and in the health programs of all countries. This knowledge considers that violence affects individual and collective health; causes deaths, injuries, and physical and mental trauma; decreases the quality of life; and impairs the well-being of people, communities, and nations. At the same time, violence poses new problems for health research by trying to understand the complexity of its causes, its dynamics, and the different ways of dealing with it. It also poses serious challenges to health systems and services for the care of victims and perpetrators and to formulate interdisciplinary, multiprofessional intersectoral and socially articulated confrontation and prevention policies and programs.