Treating Violence as Infectious Disease

Cure Violence reverses the spread of violence by using the methods and strategies associated with disease control—detection and interruption, identifying individuals involved in transmission, and changing social norms of the communities where it occurs.

Diagnosing the Problem of Violence

Violence can be understood better scientifically.

Violence, much like the great infectious diseases throughout human history, has been ‘stuck’ without lasting solutions. This isn’t because we don’t care enough, or because we don’t have enough resources devoted to it—but because we have had the wrong diagnosis. This has led to ineffective or even counterproductive treatments. Like infectious diseases, violence can be understood better scientifically, and the result must be a new strategy.

Treating violence as an infectious epidemic is effective

Three main strategies are used in reversing infectious epidemic processes. These are:

  1. detecting and interrupting potential infectious events;
  2. determining who are most likely to cause another infectious event and reducing their likelihood of developing disease and subsequently transmitting; and
  3. changing the underlying social and behavioral norms, or environmental conditions, that directly relate to this infection.

These methods have resulted in reductions in shootings and killings of 16% to 34%.

The Cure Violence method is designed around these principles. This method begins with epidemiological analysis of the clusters involved and transmission dynamics, and uses several new categories of disease control workers – including violence interrupters, outreach behavior change agents, and community coordinators – to interrupt transmission to stop the spread and to change norms around the use of violence. Workers are trained as disease control workers, similar to tuberculosis workers or those looking for first cases of bird flu or SARS.

Tuberculosis workers help find cases and ensure that persons are sufficiently rendered non-infectious, albeit in the case of tuberculosis it is through the use of antimicrobial agents. However their work also requires the use of persuasion (in taking medications) to ensure that change is occurring.  Cure Violence control workers have training in modern methods for persuasion, behavior change and changing norms – all essential for limiting spread and reversing this epidemic. The principles underpinning the approach come from modern knowledge of social psychology and brain research, just as the principles of controlling other infectious disease flow from understanding their underlying mechanisms and patterns of flow.

Proven Results

These methods have resulted in reductions in shootings and killings of 16% to 34% that are directly attributed to the strategy, and from 41% to 73% overall. The initial implementation has been replicated in 11 communities in Chicago and Baltimore with large reductions in violence found by independently performed studies commissioned by the US Department of Justice, the Center for Disease Control, and Johns Hopkins.

This new approach is now being used by over a dozen U.S. cities and a growing number of countries, including in Kenya to prevent or reduce election violence, South Africa to prevent and reduce community violence, and Iraq to prevent and reduce interpersonal and inter-tribal violence.

The advantages to this new and scientific understanding and approach to violence are countless. We can move away from counterproductive practices into the modern era.   Violence is an infectious disease. This is good news. It means we can address it methodically, and move it into the past as we have for plague, typhus, leprosy and so many others.

Success Stories

View all Success Stories >>

Cure Violence has made an impact in communities in several cities. See examples of how our approach has reduced violence and helped transform lives.

Videos

View all Videos >>