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UN agencies team up with key groups to prevent violence against health personnel

UN agencies team up with key groups to prevent violence against health personnel

Responding to the mounting toll of violence suffered by half of the world’s health workers, two United Nations agencies have teamed up with key international groups to launch a new initiative today aimed at helping health professionals fight fear, assault, humiliation and even homicide where they work.

Setting up a joint task force, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO), Public Services International (PSI) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) have conducted research showing that that nearly 25 per cent of all violent incidents at work occur in the health sector, affecting more than 50 per cent of health care workers.

Violence in the health sectors goes well beyond assaults or affronts to the individuals, threatening the quality of health care as well as productivity and development, according to the study. “The consequences of violence at work in the health sector have a significant impact on the effectiveness of health systems, especially in developing countries,” said Vittorio di Martino, who conducted the research.

Women are especially vulnerable. While ambulance staff are reported to be at greatest risk, nurses are three times more likely on average to experience violence in the workplace than other occupational groups. Since most health workers are women, the gender dimension of the problem is evident, the ILO said.

In response, the joint task force has released new guidelines aimed at supporting all those responsible for safety at the workplace, including governments, employers, workers, trade unions, professional bodies and the general public. In addition, the guidelines show how health workers can approach the problem by adopting various types of intervention, minimizing the impact of violence and preventing its recurrence.