Health Ministry Studies Impact of Violence on Nation’s Children


The Health Ministry is now examining hospital statistics to determine the impact of violence on the psyche of the nation’s children.
Dr. Elizabeth Ward, Director of Disease Prevention and Control in the Division of Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health, said available statistics failed to speak to the real impact on children having to see and hear violence daily in communities.
Addressing the weekly JIS Think Tank, Dr. Ward argued further that the pervasive use of violent images on the television as well as those in the newspapers among other sources must have “terrible” impact on impressionable youth.
Dr. Ward mentioned that detailed figures from the violence related injury surveillance system, another component of the Jamaica Injury Surveillance system in all of the large hospitals, had found that there were more than 15,000 cases that were violence related last year.
The statistics revealed that of that total, more than 4,000 cases involved persons under the age of 19, while 500 cases involved children under 10 years.
A further breakdown of the figures indicated that more than 80 per cent of the injuries occurred during an altercation, while five per cent was attributed to sexual assault and another one per cent due to child abuse.
Dr. Ward noted that the figures were the tip of the iceberg because the recorded cases were of those patients who actually visited hospitals that were under the surveillance system.
She said further that in the cases of child abuse and sexual assault in particular, hospital care was sought because the child was either badly hurt or the abuser known.
The Director pointed out that in most cases of sexual abuse, the children knew the perpetrators. “It is usually a relative, friend or an acquaintance,” she said.
Dr. Ward also noted that the increasingly alarming number of violence related injuries was affecting the scheduling of surgeries.
“We are cancelling emergency cases and elective cases because we are having cases of violent injury flooding into our hospitals and we are unable to do our routine work,” she lamented.
Other health areas have also been affected. “The violence has caused some of our health workers to be afraid to visit some areas. A lot of our programmes that target the most vulnerable parts of our population are being affected by violence,” Dr. Ward explained.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ward said that there were “two things” that could make a difference in the fight to reduce violence.
She cited good parenting as key to stemming the prevalence of violence. “We know that if we are able to provide parents with the right information about how to raise their children, they will be able to do a better job,” she said.
Children, the Director added, needed to be taught life skills before age seven. By doing this from an early age, she explained, children would develop self-esteem, be able to handle differences and also manage conflicts.
“If you get children by that age to have these skills, it seems that no matter how bad circumstances become, they will make it despite the odds,” she noted.
The Director also stressed the importance of structured and supervised after-school activities as another means of curtailing the violence.
“It can be Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, Marching Band or a homework programme, to keep children occupied and at the same time build self esteem,” she said.The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that 90 per cent of all violence related injuries could be prevented.

JIS Social