Magazine article The Nation's Health

Applying Public Health Tools to Our Crisis of Hate and Violence

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Applying Public Health Tools to Our Crisis of Hate and Violence

Article excerpt

OUR NATION is struggling with a crisis of hate-fueled violence, fed by dangerous rhetoric, resentment, fear, xenophobia and displaced anger. Let's respond to this growing problem by examining hatred and racism through a public health lens.

One useful health framework to employ will be the epidemiological triad. First discussed by epidemiologist Wade Hampton Frost during a lecture on infectious diseases at Harvard in 1928, the triad is made up of an agent, host and environment. By applying this model to our current crisis, we could identify areas for investigation and broaden discussions. Cultural and social conditions in which hate is nested could be more precisely articulated.

To this framework, I would also add Leavell and Clark's natural history of disease and health problem model, first proposed in 1953. By using the model's stages, we can map out the beginning seeds of hatred through its lasting effects.

Next we would identify the primary, secondary and tertiary prevention strategies, an important prerequisite for developing and testing interventions. Those who trade in hate depict their targets as instruments of disease, as people who should consequently be devalued, denigrated, despised and unwelcomed. Are there unidentified protective factors that could drive action?

A public health approach reminds us to work on primary prevention and to address the cultural and social conditions in which hate and violence develop. Bigotry and hatred are both virulent and contagious, as they are capable of causing pathology and can spread from person to person. …

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