Reuters Health

Monday December 6 5:42 PM ET

AMA proposes anti-violence campaign

SAN DIEGO, Dec 06 (Reuters Health) -- Violence -- youth violence, school violence, violence between intimates, and violence between prison inmates -- is a public health problem, according to the American Medical Association (AMA). On Monday, delegates attending a meeting of the physician organization began voting on a series of initiatives targeting the problem.

The vote came on the same day that a 13-year-old boy in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, opened fire on his classmates, injuring several.

The AMA will not be alone in the anti-violence campaign. US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, an AMA delegate, said yesterday that ``the Surgeon General's office will spend most of next year working on a report on youth violence.'' Satcher made the statement during testimony at a reference committee considering the various initiatives aimed at violence.

Last June, Dr. David Fassler of Burlington, Vermont, AMA delegate from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, introduced a resolution asking the AMA's Council on Scientific Affairs to study the ``causes of violence in our schools.'' In response to the resolution, the Council produced an 11-page report reviewing the available data on school violence.

The report notes that 76 students died violent deaths in schools in the years 1992-1993 and 1993-1994 and there were another 29 non-student violent deaths in schools. During the same period ``more than 7,300 young people aged 5 to 19 years old were murdered and nearly 4,400 committed suicide'' outside the school setting.

The report was generally lauded by a stream of delegates who expressed their willingness to participate in an anti-violence campaign but several delegates asked that the report be amended to include a section on bullying, which Dr. Ronald M. Davis, delegate from the American College of Preventive Medicine, said is a frequent contributor to school violence.

Dr. Walter W. Shervington, president of the National Medical Association, asked that the report be amended to include a reference to racially inspired violence. In an interview with Reuters Health, Shervington said the US has a tradition of racial violence stretching back to slavery and added that news reports suggest a racial motive for one of the killings at Columbine High School last spring.

Dr. Joel Karlin of Englewood, Colorado, said he ``watched from my office window as helicopters transported the victims from Columbine High School, some of them my patients.'' Karlin introduced a resolution from the Colorado delegation asking the AMA to create a task force to ``investigate those medical, public health, or societal interventions which have a reasonable likelihood of decreasing the frequency of mass assaults.''

While agreeing that the violence prevention is a public health issue and urging the AMA to take an active role in prevention, Dr. Wayne D. Blackmon of the District of Columbia introduced a resolution asking the AMA to update and correct its data on domestic violence. Blackmon told Reuters Health that the AMA incorrectly depicts the victim of violence between intimates as being a woman in most cases. ``The data refute that view. Domestic violence is an equal opportunity employer,'' Blackmon said. His resolution asks for a corrected and updated report from the Council as well as correction of all ``the AMA's outdated educational brochures.''

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