A panel of experts discussed their views on violence as a public-health issue.
Violence and health were brought together in a conversation Tuesday night.
Dozens of people piled inside Callahan Auditorium in the University of Iowa College of Public Health Building to hold a discussion on solutions related to violence. Iowa Public Radio host Ben Kieffer moderated the event.
Special guest Leana Wen, the Baltimore health commissioner and the UI College of Public Health’s Hansen Award recipient, spoke about her study and experiences. The panel also consisted of three others who study violence in relation to public health.
Kieffer started the conversation by highlighting the increase in gun violence in Iowa in the past few years. According to the Center for American Progress, 1,976 people were killed by guns in Iowa from 2001 to 2010.
Wen then shared her experiences with violence as a health professional in Baltimore.
“As an emergency physician, I have to say unequivocally that violence is a health issue,” she said.
She said it is scientifically proven that violence is a contagious disease. It spreads from person to person, and there are ways to prevent and cure it.
To address the issue of violence, she said, we also have to address the issue of trauma, which brings in the ideas of both mental health and systemic hierarchy seen in Baltimore.
Wen also stated that many people believe violence is primarily a law enforcement and public safety issue. While she said that in some ways this is true, people can also see the way violence takes over one’s mental state, specifically referencing the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death. Gray was an unarmed black man who died in police custody in 2015, she noted.
“Public safety, though, has to work hand in hand with public health,” she said.
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