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Improving health
Previously NHS Health Scotland

Violence against women and girls and the public health priorities

In Scotland, violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a major public health issue. 

Gender-based violence is recognised within the definition of VAWG included in:

The impact that this violence and trauma has on individuals and communities impacts on how Scotland is able to meet its public health priorities (external website).

There are six public health priorities, which cover:

  • safe places and communities 
  • the early years
  • mental wellbeing
  • alcohol and drugs
  • poverty and inequality
  • healthy lifestyles

Adopting a public health approach to VAWG

A public health approach provides a coherent framework for investigating and understanding the causes and consequences of violence. That framework can also be used for preventing violence from occurring through primary prevention programmes, policy interventions and advocacy.

To address VAWG and progress all six public health priorities it is important to consider sex and gender, and recognise the impact of gender inequality.

Six papers developed in 2022 outline the relationships between VAWG and the public health priority areas, highlighting:

  • the challenges faced by women in Scotland to live in safe places and communities
  • how the early years shape attitudes towards violence against women 
  • how the impact of experiencing violence as children can impact on adulthood
  • the challenges faced by women in Scotland to achieve positive mental health
  • the complex relationship with alcohol and drugs
  • the weaker economic position of women in Scotland, relative to men
  • the barriers to eating well, having a healthy weight and being physically active

They also offer recommendations for what a public health response to VAWG and the priorities could include. 

By recognising VAWG as a public health issue, we can strengthen local and national leadership and adopt a public health approach.