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Journal Article


Krug EG, Arias I. Inj. Prev. 2008; 14(5): 342.


(Copyright © 2008, BMJ Publishing Group)






John Langley raises an important point. Terminology is important, and there may be some lack of clarity in the terminology used currently. However, the current terminology is the result of experience and deliberate thinking of many in the field of injury prevention and control over the past few years. There are several reasons for using the term violence instead of intentional injuries.

First and foremost, the absence of the word violence in “injury prevention and control” is an obstacle in communications with a wide range of stakeholders. When violence is not explicitly mentioned in communications, it is not immediately or implicitly included in thinking and planning. Thus, by not including violence in the terminology used from the outset, the field finds itself at a disadvantage in its attempts to increase political and social will for violence prevention.

Using the term “intentional injuries” has also been the object of much debate. Although, in many cases of violence, the behavior is intentional, as in the case of shaking a crying baby, the consequences such as brain injuries that can result from this behavior are often not intentional.

In addition, while violence between youth, between family members, or against oneself often causes fatal or nonfatal injuries, this is not always the case. Consider a woman regularly threatened by a partner who spends her life in fear, or the older person who is neglected by their care givers and left for hours without food or medication. These are cases that do not result in injuries but do fit the commonly used definition of violence: “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.”

Finally, research has shown that while physical injuries are important consequences of violence, there are many other related health consequences. These include, for example, mental health consequences, sexually transmitted diseases, and important changes in behavior (eg, smoking; alcohol and drug use and/or abuse) which are known risk factors for chronic diseases. To accurately document the burden of violence and the urgency in prevention, we need to draw attention to the full range of public health consequences and not limit these to physical injuries only.

In view of the above, we believe that using the term “violence” serves the field better than “intentional injuries,” and “injury and violence prevention” serves better than “injury prevention and control.” Conceivably, a logical and alternative choice would be to use “violence and unintentional injury prevention.” Although this may be a more precise use of terminology, it can become a cumbersome one when conciseness is of importance.



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