A public health approach can play an important factor in a holistic response for ending gun violence in Halifax and other Canadian communities.
That argument was a focus of a forum on Tuesday hosted by the Canadian Public Health Association.
“We know that violence is often a symptom of larger problems, and so we look at those upstream issues, such as education, income, housing, that can lead to violence, and so that’s a public health approach to violence prevention,” Ian Culbert, executive director of the organization, said before the event started.
He said Halifax needs to invest in community centres, education, and quality housing.
The evening event was held at the World Trade and Convention Centre.
It featured five speakers, including Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, Nova Scotia’s deputy chief medical officer of health.
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“I think the role for the public health sector, ideally, is one around certainly advocacy but more specifically around what we would call surveillance and information about what the magnitude of the problem is, and who’s involved in that,” she said.
It’s important for the sector to question because it helps paint a picture of what’s driving the problem, Watson-Creed said.
“Who does this affect? Who does this not affect? And, for the people that it’s affecting, why is it affecting them and not affecting these other people?” she added.
Knowing that information provides an opportunity to possibly intervene.
“That’s the value of having public health in this conversation,” Watson-Creed said. “That’s the type of thinking that we can bring to the question.”
Carlos Beals, a senior outreach worker with CeaseFire Halifax, a group that aims to end and prevent violence in Halifax communities, was another speaker.
He said he wanted to discuss why the non-profit organization treats violence as a “contagious disease.”
“When we do that, we’re able to tap in to more creative ways in dealing with violence,” Beals said.
More leadership role and employment opportunities in some Halifax communities are also important to focus on, he added.