Public Health Approach to Primary Prevention

The 4 Step Public Health Approach was developed by the CDC and takes a multi-disciplinary approach and outlines how to best prevent violence. The steps are: define and monitor the problem, identify risk and protective factors, develop and test prevention strategies, and assure widespread adoption.

The Social-Ecological Model provides a framework for prevention that demonstrates the four levels of society that impact violence. The four levels are individual, relationship, community and societal. Each level has factors that interact with those at different levels and an approach that targets multiple levels is more likely to have a sustained impact.

Individual -The first level identifies biological and personal history factors that increase the likelihood of becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence.

Relationship - The second level examines close relationships, including a person’s peers, partners, and family members, that may increase the risk of experiencing violence as a victim or perpetrator.

Community - The third level explores the settings, such as schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods, in which social relationships occur and seeks to identify the characteristics of these settings that are associated with becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.

Societal - The fourth level looks at the broad societal factors that help create a climate in which violence is encouraged or inhibited. These factors include social and cultural norms that support violence as an acceptable way to resolve conflicts.

What Are Risk and Protective Factors?

Risk Factors are conditions or characteristics that increase the likelihood of sexual and domestic violence perpetration and victimization. Risk factors do not necessarily directly cause sexual and domestic violence, but their presence increases the chance of perpetration and victimization. Risk factors can be characteristics of an individual or conditions present in the environment. Risk factors can be used to help focus prevention efforts. These factors are supported by research and/or practical experience from the field.

Protective Factors are conditions or characteristics that decrease the likelihood of sexual and domestic violence perpetration and victimization, while also facilitating a broad range of related positive outcomes. A single protective factor does not necessarily directly prevent sexual and domestic violence, but the presence of multiple protective factors decreases the chance of perpetration and victimization. Protective factors can be characteristics of an individual or conditions present in the environment. Protective factors can be used to help focus prevention efforts. These factors are supported by research and/or practical experience from the field.

  Risk Factors Protective Factors
Individual
  • Belief in strict gender roles
  • Desire for power and control
  • Academic achievement
  • Personal beliefs in gender equality and behaviors consistent with that belief
Relationship
  • Abuses of power
  • Unhealthy family relationships and interactions
  • Parental use of reasoning to resolve family conflict
  • Peers/families/partners identify and respond to behaviors that are precursors to IPV/SV
Community
  • Negative portrayal of women in the media
  • Weak community sanctions against domestic violence perpetrators
  • Communities engage diverse people in activities promoting healthy relationships
  • Coordination of services among community agencies
Societal
  • Institutional structures that promote unequal power between gender
  • Traditional gender norms
  • Accountability and expectations of people to interact respectfully is a fundamental part of life.
  • Developing and maintaining healthy relationships is a highly valued social norm.

Additional Resources on Risk and Protective Factors:

Shared Risk and Protective Factors Across Multiple Forms of Violence

Many forms of violence share the same root causes, risk and protective factors. Recently more resources have become available to assist organizations in identifying opportunities to coordinate and collaborate across various types of violence prevention work.