THERE is preventive medicine that doesn't involve...

Salmagundi

November 12, 1993

THERE is preventive medicine that doesn't involve hospitals, scalpels or CAT scans. Violence is a learned behavior that is preventable, according to Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith.

"Doing more surgery doesn't cure lung cancer. Reducing smoking does. Prevention is also true for violence," she says.

Her book, "Deadly Consequences: How Violence is Destroying our Teenage Population and a Plan to Begin Solving the Problem," asserts that violence is taught in all aspects of American life.

"Our children are killing each other because we teach violence, we love it, we promote it. As a society, we think it's justified, painless, guiltless, glamorous. From the media to the movies to the president, the message is the same," she says.

If it is learned behavior, we do too good a job of teaching this lesson. In 1986, the United States had 22 homicides for every 100,000 people. Next on the list was Scotland with only five homicides per 100,000. Homicide is the leading cause of death for black American males from ages 18 to 24; there is a lower life expectancy for residents of New York City's Harlem than residents of Bangladesh, the poorest country in the world.

Yet the knowledge to prevent this epidemic of violence lies within us all.

Rather than focusing on medical cures for our ills, shouldn't we first try to practice some prevention inside our own families?

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