WMA leader urges further action to combat violence

The World Medical Association today urged the World Health Organisation to strengthen its activities to combat violence.

Speaking at a conference in Geneva, Dr Delon Human, Secretary General of the WMA, congratulated the WHO Director General Dr JW Lee for his commitment in ensuring that the WHO fulfilled its role as a global leader of the health response to violence. But he said that further action was now needed so that the momentum achieved in the first year of the Global Campaign for Violence Prevention was converted into sustained action at country, regional and global levels.

Dr Human highlighted the key role that doctors played in dealing with violence.

"Doctors cannot escape the reality that violence is a health issue. In emergency departments and clinics doctors repair the damage done to victims of all types of violence. They also treat the injuries of perpetrators, whose involvement with violence make them more likely to end up as victims themselves."

"Doctors are often responsible for informing family members that the life of their loved one has been ended by violence. Doctors may be the first and only professionals in a position to recognize violence in their patients' lives, and doctors care for millions of women and children whose health and well are being undermined by violence in their homes."

"Doctors can also be victims of violence in the workplace and in other settings."

Dr Human said that research was increasingly demonstrating that violence was at the root of many other conditions the medical community addressed. A major US study had estimated that 78 per cent of intravenous drug use was related to severe child abuse and other adverse childhood experiences, as was 65 per cent of alcohol abuse, 58 per cent of suicide attempts and 54 per cent of current depression.

He added: "Despite clear empirical evidence for the health impact of violence and the central role of the medical community in treating its consequences and advocating for prevention, the links between violence, medicine and health remain unrecognized by far too many authorities."

Dr Human said the WMA was proud to have contributed to the increasing awareness raising process with its Statement on Violence and Health, adopted last year. This encouraged national medical associations to:

  • advocate effective prevention strategies and victims services
  • ensure routine data collection
  • ensure the integration of violence prevention into medical curricula
  • promote violence prevention through counselling during clinical encounters
  • coordinate victim assistance
  • strengthen research
  • set a social example of non-violence, and encourage the development of national violence prevention policies and plans

He said the WMA would support its members in acting on this Statement by providing training and ongoing advocacy for violence prevention.