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By on September 8, 2009

Gender Based Violence and Public Health

When I saw the title of the new article “Gender-based violence in Public Health: challenges and achievements” in the Brazilian journal Ciência & Saúde Coletiva I was excited to read about a discussion of how public health can address issues such as sexual assault and dating violence prevention.

Indeed, after a decade of working in sexual assault and dating violence prevention, I decided in the early 1990’s to obtain a Masters in Public Health degree in order to learn new strategies to advance prevention of men’s violence against women. I knew I would learn little about violence against women (I have given presentations at the School of Public Health on dating violence for several years prior to attending the school) , but I knew I had more to learn about prevention strategies.

Unfortunately the article appears on in Portuguese so I have to rely on the abstract (listed below) that was written in English.  The title of the journal did remind me of one of the pieces of public health that I love: “Saúde Coletiva” translates roughly as “collective health” That is a great alternative term for “public health” since it emphasizes the importance of looking at the community level for change.  Public health is not primarily about individual health; public health examines “population-based” health. Or, in other words, how do we improve the health of the community overall.

The article appears to try to reconcile the difference between gender based violence as a socio-cultural phenomenon and a scientific approach. From my perspective, preventing violence against women is more like the civil rights movement than the movement to reduce smoking. The work is to shift a culture; science, research and evaluation are tools to support the effort.

Here is full text of the abstract from SafetyLit and a link to the article in Portuguese.

Gender-based violence in Public Health: challenges and achievements.

Schraiber LB, D’Oliveira AF, Portella AP, Menicucci E. Ciência & Saúde Coletiva, 2009; 14(4): 1019-27. (Full text only in Portuguese)

(Copyright © 2009, Associacao Brasileira de Pos-Graduacao em Saude Coletiva)

This text deals with violence against women (VAW) as a scientific and practical object of Health. It is a theoretical and critical reflection related to historical processes that show convergences and distances between the approach of this violence as an issue and the health field particularities, creating contemporary conquests and challenges especially to Public Health.

The text debates interdisciplinary aspects of this scientific object and some impacts to the knowledge production and to health actions. Considering the different scientific and practical cultures of Health and other fields that already deal with VAW, existing tensions between health perspective and violence as a socio-cultural phenomenon are showed, becoming critical when added the gender approach.

Challenges are then created on dialogs between those fields in terms of: paradigms, scientific models and languages of each one; social intervention needs in every field; and the distinct relation between knowledge and social intervention presented in each field.

On the other hand, the conquests related to human and social rights and the proposal of integral health are shown as convergences between these fields. To conclude, some possible answers to the challenges are considered.

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