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The Public Health Approach

Our resources and training take a public health approach to understanding and preventing violence. Each step of this process informs the next. Many people, organizations, and systems are involved at each step along the way.

You can think of it as a relay team for prevention: overall success depends upon all teammates and how they run their legs of the race.

1) Define the Problem
This is where you define the problem, which involves systematically collecting data to determine the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how.” Data are typically gathered from a variety of sources such as death certificates, medical or coroner reports, hospital records, child welfare records, law enforcement, or other records.

2) Identify Risk and Protective Factors
In this step, you explore the reasons why a certain group of people or community experiences violence while another does not. Scientific research methods are used to identify the factors that increase or decrease the risk for violence. This work is done because it is not enough to define and know about a public health problem, as in step one.

3) Develop and Test Prevention Strategies
Using information gained in step two, prevention strategies are developed and rigorously tested to see if they prevent violence.

4) Assure Widespread Adoption
This is where the rubber meets the road. The strategies shown to be effective in step three are disseminated and implemented broadly. While this is considered the final step of the public health model, it doesn’t mean that the process is complete. Additional assessments and evaluation are done to assure that all components of the strategy fit within the particular community context and have the desired effect of preventing violence.

To learn more about implementing the public health approach use a tool to think through how to put this framework in place.

You can also learn more about these prevention basics from our Principles of Prevention training.