On Thursday, October 10, the Health Affairs Journal held a briefing on Violence & Health with 15 authors from their October 2019 Issue that discussed their work focusing on how violence permeates our society with consequences for victims, perpetrators, and communities. The various aspects of violence and its impacts reaches people of all ages and all walks of life. Although current news tends to focus on incidents of mass violence, many people and communities a burden with a daily reality of violence in its many forms.

Richard D. Krugman’s paper, NARRATIVE MATTERS: Ending Gaze Aversion Toward Child Abuse and Neglect, addresses what he calls “gaze aversion”—the avoidance of seeing abuse when it has clearly (or likely) happened. He states gaze aversion toward child abuse happens often because child abuse and neglect are seen as social issues rather than health issues. “There is gaze aversion, not only by people who don’t want to see the problem, but also by institutions who don’t want to deal with the problem,” says Dr. Krugman. In closing, their needs to be a change in narrative in which survivors of childhood abuse are viewed the same way as survivors of illness.

Community violence has been linked to health consequences, social isolation, and loneliness. Briana Woods-Jaeger looks at the experiences of African American youth who are disproportionately exposed to community violence. In her paper, Mitigating Negative Consequences of Community Violence Exposure: Perspectives from African American Youth, Woods-Jaeger shares quotes from youth who haven’t had the resources to cope after instances of community-based violence happen around them. She finds that these youth feel the impact of racial discrimination as well as trauma from the community violence around them. Woods-Jaeger states that in order to best support these youth, we (as a nation) must promote their health and well-being after community violence happens in their neighborhood.

Rebecca Cunningham from the University of Michigan, School of Medicine conducted research for the leading causes of death for children and adolescents from 2008 to 2017. She found that the three leading causes were motor vehicle accidents, firearm injuries, and cancer. When comparing the funding per death for each of these causes, research shows that cancer funding per death was $200,000, vehicle crash funding was $26,000 per death, and firearm injury was only $600 per death. The authors of the study have concluded that if a federal investment was made to fund research looking into firearm death and injuries, 76 percent of firearm deaths in the U.S. could be prevented.

Across all 15 panelists, there was a general consensus that violence is a health issue, not a social issue. Furthermore, violence is a preventable health issue, but also a complicated one. As Brianna Mills said in the introduction to the event, “the problem is not simple, so the response should not be simple.”