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Violence prevention: the evidence

December 6, 2009

The violence prevention strategies covered in the seven briefings are:

1. Developing safe, stable and nurturing relationships between children and their parents and caregivers;

High-quality trials in the United States of America and other developed countries have shown that both the Nurse Family Partnership home-visiting programme and the Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) reduce child maltreatment.

2. Developing life skills in children and adolescents;

Evidence shows that the life-skills acquired in social development programmes (which are aimed at building social, emotional and behavioural competencies) can prevent youth violence, while preschool enrichment programmes (which provide children with academic and social skills at an early age) appear promising.

3. Reducing the availability and harmful use of alcohol;

Evidence is emerging that violence may be prevented by reducing the availability of alcohol, through brief interventions and longer-term treatment for problem drinkers and by improving the management of environments where alcohol is served. Currently, evidence for the effectiveness of suchinterventions is rarely from randomized controlled trials and comes chiefly from developed countries and some parts of Latin America.

4. Reducing access to guns, knives and pesticides;

Evidence emerging suggests that limiting access to firearms and pesticides can prevent homicides (most of which occur between young males between 15–29-years-old), suicides and injuries and reduce the costs of these forms of violence to society. More rigorous studies are, however, needed.

5. Promoting gender equality to prevent violence against women;

Outcome evaluation studies are beginning to support community interventions that aim to prevent prevent violence against women by promoting gender equality. Evidence suggests that programmes that combine microfinance with gender equity training can reduce intimate partner violence. Some of the strongest evidence is for the IMAGE initiative in South Africa which combines microloans and gender equity training. Another intervention for which evidence of effectiveness is building up is the Stepping Stones programme in Africa and Asia which is a life-skills training programme which addresses gender-based violence, relationship skills, assertiveness training and communication about HIV.

6. Changing cultural and social norms that support violence;

The effectiveness of interventions addressing dating violence and sexual abuse among teenagers and young adults by challenging social and cultural norms related to gender is supported by some evidence. Other interventions appear promising, including those targeting youth violence and education through entertainment (“edutainment”) aimed at reducing intimate partner violence.

7. Victim identification, care and support programmes.

Evidence of effectiveness is emerging for the following interventions: screening tools to identify victims of intimate partner violence and refer them to appropriate services; psychosocial interventions – such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy – to reduce mental health problems associated with violence, including post-traumatic stress disorder; and protection orders, which prohibit a perpetrator from contacting the victim, to reduce repeat victimization among victims of intimate partner violence. Several trials have shown that advocacy support programmes – which offer services such as advice, counselling, safety planning and referral to other agencies – increase victims’ safety behaviours and reduce further harm.


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