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Dr. Sands: ‘Violence is Testosterone Driven’

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said based on his observations over the last 23 or 24 years, it has become clear that the violence and trauma being experienced in the country is a testosterone driven phenomenon.

“The number one cause of death in Bahamian men is now violence, not heart decease, not cancer, not HIV.  It is violence and in particular, a bullet,” Dr. Sands said at the Violence Intervention and Prevention in School Aged Children workshop in the Public Hospitals Authority Training Centre, Tuesday, July 18, 2017.

Officials from the Ministry of Health, the Public Hospitals Authority, the Ministry of Education and other agencies attended the workshop hosted by the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization.

Dr. Sands explained that in 2013, The Bahamas Global School Study was conducted, which looked at 1,300 students between the ages of 13 and 15, in grades eight, nine and 10 from New Providence and some of the Family Islands in both the public and private schools.

Dr. Sands said, “Twenty per cent of the boys as opposed to six per cent of the girls reported that somebody had threatened or injured them with a weapon on school property one or more times in the previous 30 days.

“One in five boys said somebody had threatened or injured them with a weapon on school property within the last month.

“Twenty-six per cent of boys as opposed to 16 per cent of girls said that they had a boyfriend or girlfriend hit, slap or physically hurt them deliberately or on purpose.”

The health minister also noted that 51 per cent of boys as opposed to 40 per cent of girls said they were seriously injured one or more times over the past 12 months.

Roughly the same percentage of boys and 22 per cent of girls also reported that they were bullied one or more days in the past 30 days.

“Did we listen to those students as a result of that study in 2013?  If we had listened, might we have seen a change in the violence that we are experiencing in our country today?” Dr. Sands said.

“Have the concerns about violence among youth been incorporated into our planning and into our decision making?  Has it become a part of our national agenda?”

The health minister explained that it has been recommended that to address the concerns of violence in school aged children, the Ministries of Health and Education should in particular lead a multi-sectoral effort towards improving the lives and health of youths in The Bahamas.

He said the “formalisation” of the multi-sectoral approach would have the responsibility of addressing the issue such as unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, mental health and violence.

He said, “We are starting off with violence today and I believe if we tackle this particular issue, then we would strengthen our relationship and perhaps be inclined to tackle some of the rest.”

Dr. Sands also said another recommendation is to develop an inter-sectoral adolescent health policy.

He explained that at present there are a number of civil society organisations and private sector operators that have a vested interest in adolescent health.

“If we bring these together and have an over-arching policy that can provide real guidelines that Bahamians can live and breathe, which pays attention to adolescent health, this would be a positive step in the right direction,” he said.

“It would also demonstrate that we have a true commitment to the youth of our country.”

Dr. Sands said the government is about to present a proposal to the Pan American Health Organization which looks at violence and trauma not as a social problem but as a public health problem.

He asked, “It is possible that we have been missing the real reasons why the Caribbean and inner city America are having an inordinately high rate of violence, in particular gun violence.

Could it be that this is not about the family; could it be that there are biomedical markers that can explain this violence?”

He charged the workshop participants with creating new knowledge, to lay foundations and point the way so that the path towards violence can be changed.

The health minister also charged them with advancing a national intervention plan for the safety, health and well-being of young people of the country.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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