The following is a message from Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin to the staff at Public Health. We think the message will resonate with those inside and outside of our agency.
On Friday, I spent the day with others from Public Health – Seattle & King County and regional local health departments, Washington State Department of Health, and the University of Washington at a conference organized by the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice to help find solutions to the problem of injury and violence in our communities. It was therefore especially ironic and sickening to hear the news of the Paris terrorist attacks on the car radio as I returned from the meeting.
Many of us, including myself, feel overwhelmed trying to fathom the reasons for, and solutions to, the type of indiscriminate killing that has been routinized by repeated violent terrorist attacks happening around the world, most recently in Paris, Beirut, Nigeria, Somalia, Cameroon, Turkey, Israel and Gaza, Iran, and elsewhere. Here at home, we are struggling with many incarnations of violence in our own communities and country, including intentional violence from suicide, gun violence, intimate partner and domestic violence, adverse childhood experiences and other emotional trauma, and multiple causes of unintentional injury and death.
As public health professionals we share a common purpose: Improving the health of communities through prevention. Accordingly, we bring our public health approach to addressing the wicked problems of violence and injury. I sincerely hope that in addition, this most recent abomination in Paris will motivate not only public health professionals but all of us, including governmental, business and community leaders across the country to acknowledge all types of violence – even terrorist violence– as a public health problem – a disease – and treat it accordingly.
Although we will not be able to easily solve the problem of global terrorist violence through our actions here at home, redoubling our efforts to end the ongoing devastation of violence of all types in our communities would be a meaningful start. I’m optimistic that with the same perseverance, dedication, and intelligence that we used to put a man on the moon, conquer smallpox and polio, and harness the energy of the atom, we can make real progress in reducing violence from all causes in our communities, our country, and the world.