• Violence Prevention Alliance

Violence is one of the Root Causes of NCDs – Professor Elizabeth Ward



Professor Elizabeth Ward, chair of the VPA said that one of the root causes of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Jamaica is violence.


“All across the spectrum of our non-communicable diseases we are seeing these increases and violence is part of the root cause,” she pointed out.


Professor Ward made the link while making a presentation at the monthly Steering Committee meeting of the VPA on June 14 where she was the guest speaker.

She said children exposed to violence are twice as likely to experience heart disease; 2.3 times for cancer; 1.5 times for diabetes and obesity; two times likely to be involved in alcohol and drugs abuse; 2.8 times likely to be a smoker; 3.6 times more likely to be practising unsafe sexual practices.


The VPA chair also informed that according to data from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) children affected by childhood trauma are 12 times more likely to commit suicide, 4.4 times more likely to suffer from depression and 7.5 times more likely to perpetrate violence or become the victims of violence.

Citing some of these adverse childhood experiences, which led to the development of NCDs, she said this includes: abuse; neglect and household challenges such as intimate partner violence, mental illness, incarceration, parental separation or divorce and substance dependency.


She however noted that prevention was key. She informed that programmes and policies can be developed to target the social and economic determinants of violence. She however added when prevention fails, it can be treated.

Professor Ward however underscored that children need reassurance of safety, routines, regulations and relationships, which she said are the core components of resilience. She also recommends safe, clean, green spaces with supervised activities.

The VPA chair pointed out that for prevention to work, programmes have to be designed to suit the problem. She said when the interventions are executed, they should be done properly by using the evidence to guide the interventions. In addition, they should be targeted with the right dosage.


She however noted that community engagement was also critical in yielding success as without the involvement of the community the interventions might not work.

According to data from the latest Jamaica Health & Lifestyle Survey, 29 percent of Jamaicans 15 years old and older are obese; 12 percent are diabetic and 34 percent are hypertensive.


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