Guns, Germs & Divorce: Treating social ills as health issues

Another US school gun massacre sets off the usual debate as if this is just a political or criminal justice problem. In contrast, the world rapidly worked out how to deal with a major global health problem: the COVID pandemic. Experts urge us to treat social ills as health concerns not legal ones.

If the value of a health-based approach is true for guns, other problems would benefit by moving away from a justice-based approach. The “war on drugs” would be one. Family troubles especially around separation can also cause lasting harm. So a health framework could well do better than the dominant legal one through lawyers and family courts

This reframe from justice to health has worked for many social ills

This reframe from justice to health has worked for many social ills: smoking, car crashes, seat belts, drunk driving, HIV and more. The call now is to apply this approach and move the debate on guns and other social problems to focus on harm reduction, identifying risk and prevention.

Experts explain that a public health approach relies on data, education, clear messaging and collaborating with community stakeholders. This recognises complex interlocking factors in society. It means a holistic approach to prevention and treatment. It means building coalitions.

There are many blocks and vested interests to overcome. But the benefits are clear. We should move to treat social ills as health concerns not just legal ones.

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