Violence Against Healthcare: A Public Health Issue beyond Conflict Settings

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  • 1 Emergency Department, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland;
  • | 2 Microbiology Department, Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Kingston upon Thames, London, United Kingdom;
  • | 3 University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy;
  • | 4 Local Health Unit N.2 “Marca Trevigiana”, Public Health Department, Treviso, Italy;
  • | 5 American University of the Middle East, Kuwait

A 3-year analysis released in August 2021 by the WHO indicated that more than 700 healthcare workers and patients have died (2,000 injured) as a result of attacks against health facilities since 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the risks even worse for doctors, nurses, and support staff, unfortunately. According to the latest figures from the International Committee of the Red Cross, 848 COVID-19-related violent incidents were recorded in 2020, and this is likely an underrepresentation of a much more widespread phenomenon. In response to rises in COVID-19-related attacks against healthcare, some countries have taken action. In Algeria, for instance, the penal code was amended to increase protection for healthcare workers against attacks and to punish individuals who damage health facilities. In the United Kingdom, the police, crime, sentencing, and courts bill proposed increased the maximum penalty from 12 months to 2 years in prison for anyone who assaults an emergency worker. Measures taken by countries represent a good practical way to counteract this crisis within COVID-19. However, we stress the importance of primary prevention with the use of communication: social media and other communication channels are fundamentally important to combat violence against health professionals, both to inform the population with quality data and to disseminate campaigns to prevent these acts.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Saverio Bellizzi, Emergency Department, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: saverio.bellizzi@gmail.com

Authors’ addresses: Saverio Bellizzi, Emergency Department, World Health Organization, Geneva, CH 1211, Switzerland, E-mail: saverio.bellizzi@gmail.com. Giuseppe Pichierri, Microbiology Department, Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Kingston upon Thames, London, United Kingdom, E-mail: giuseppe.pichierri@nhs.net. Gabriele Farina, Ospedale San Martino Oristano, Diagnostica Neurologica, Viale Rockfeller, Oristano, IT 09170, E-mail: gabriele.farina@gmail.com. Luca Cegolon, Marca Trevigiana Local Unit of Health and Social Services 2, Public Health Department, Treviso, Veneto, IT, E-mail: cegolon@gmail.com. Wiem Abdelbaki, American University of Kuwait, Epidemiology Department, Safat, Kuwait, E-mail: wiem.abdelbaki@gmail.com.

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