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Crime, a global public health problem - Lou Cahill

Crime has historically been thought of as a matter for the police and courts, with the focus almost exclusively on responding after the fact. However, crime shares common causes with poor health, especially poverty, and fear of crime itself is a major contributor to poor mental health. It is without a doubt a public health issue and the benefit of this approach is the focus on prevention and multidisciplinary working.

The public health approach seeks to undertake proactive activity, identify and address vulnerabilities, increase data sharing between responding parties and push for evidence-based practice. We’re seeing a significant increase in the growing body of literature in this area and the inclusion of health care professionals on crime reduction partnerships around the country. So why is this a global issue? Why should a Registered Nurse in Birmingham care about what is happening in Paris or Abuja? Crime, just like a virus, doesn’t recognise international borders. The world’s most common crimes are transnational, which means they will cross many borders and impact many people on route. It also means decisions taken international in other countries will directly impact what crosses our borders and what happens in the UK.

Knowing what other countries are doing as part of their public health response means that we can be aware and adjust accordingly and visa versa. It also means we share practice, the good and the bad, to the benefit of our patients and our communities. I have spent the past seven years working to identify and care for victims of human trafficking and to prevent people from being trafficked. I’ve had the pleasure of working with colleagues in Poland, America, Canada, France, Namibia and New Zealand and it has helped us to learn, grow and implement stronger policies. The public health voice in tackling global crime is only as strong as is it united.

If the Royal College of Nursing was to re-join the International Council of Nurses, we would be able to add our voices to those of our colleagues fighting for better public health approaches to crime. We would be able to influence policies and decisions made that directly impact those working in this field in the UK. Crime is global, public health is global, Registered Nurses should be global too.

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