Preventing violent extremism needs a public health approach, says new report
More needs to be done to understand the journey that leads individuals to commit acts of violent extremism.
A new report urges public services to work together to tackle the broader risk factors for involvement in violent extremism that are often hidden behind discussions about politics, race and religion.
In the first publication of its kind in the UK, the Faculty of Public Health and Public Health Wales outline why we must work harder to understand and address underlying issues which promote vulnerability to violent extremism, such as childhood trauma, poor mental health, social isolation, prejudice and inequity.
Based on studies from around the world and consultation with experts in public health and criminal justice, the report acknowledges the important role criminal justice agencies play in suppressing the activity of those already planning terrorist acts.
However, it identifies an urgent need to monitor how policies to tackle, not only violent extremism, but issues such as inequality, integration and health and well-being can all impact support for, and rejection of, violent activity in different communities.
Findings from the report identify a range of individual and community factors which could better predict risks of violent extremism. These include early childhood trauma and chronic stress, social isolation and a lack of belonging, intolerance to diversity and socioeconomic inequity.
The report identifies that surprisingly little work has been undertaken to understand how these factors have affected the life course of those already involved in violent extremism and what this tells us about early prevention options for others on the same path.