Washington, Oct. 3, 2019 -- Effective violence prevention and response relies on teamwork between the health sector and other public sectors as well as collaboration between research, policy and practice among different international and local stakeholders.

These were among the conclusions of an event on “Addressing Violence in the Americas, what more can be done” held today on the sidelines of the Pan American Health Organization’s 57th Directing Council, a regional meeting of all health ministers in the Americas.

“Violence takes many forms and it affects us all in the Americas.”

Officials from El Salvador, Guyana, and Paraguay outlined some of their experiences on addressing violence, focusing on new approaches that involve collaboration between health services, law enforcement, community organizations and others.

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO’s Assistant Director, said “Violence takes many forms and it affects us all in the Americas. The numbers we see are not acceptable. We can do better and we can do more, working in partnerships for violence prevention.”He noted that PAHO’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025 includes a focus on violence prevention. 

The health sector has a critical role “to lead by example and advocate for the utilization of a public health approach to address violence, to promote multi-sector collaboration, to strengthen the health service response - including at the primary health care level, and to improve information and evidence for collective action.” 

El Salvador Minister of Health, Ana del Carmen Orellana Bendek, outlined her country’s new seven-stage territorial control plan to reach people in communities wracked by violence and offer them new health,  education and social opportunities, reducing the influence of gangs.. Addressing violence is seen as a “cross-cutting” priority, with health collaborating in multiple ways with other government sectors.

Volda Lawrence, Minister of Health of Guyana, said alcohol and drug consumption are strong contributing factors to gender-based violence in her country, noting a “troubling pattern” in many areas. She said ministries have joined together with non-government organizations to empower women who have experienced violence and pointed to the  “Spotlight Initiative” as an opportunity to strengthen partnership and improve the health and well-being of women in Guyana.

In Paraguay, the Ministry of Health has formed an inter-disciplinary team to prevent and respond to violence against women and children, said Dr. Adriana Amarilla, director general of health promotion for the ministry. New manuals and procedures were developed for integrated care for survivors, she said.

The Organization of American States has developed an action plan to guide public policies to prevent and reduce intentional homicide, noted Dr. Karen Bozicovich, its chef of public security information and knowledge. There are multiple opportunities for strengthening collaboration between the health and criminal justice sectors for a more effective response to homicide.

The meeting concluded with an open invitation to continue the dialogue and exchange of experiences. PAHO stands ready to collaborate with Member States and other partners in order to together end violence in all its forms in the Region of the Americas.