Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The war on violent memes

Cultural epidemiology has found some new converts recently - in the area of combating violence. Here's cureviolence.org:

Treating violence as an infectious epidemic is effective

Three main strategies are used in reversing infectious epidemic processes. These are:

  • detecting and interrupting potential infectious events;
  • determining who are most likely to cause another infectious event and reducing their likelihood of developing disease and subsequently transmitting; and
  • changing the underlying social and behavioral norms, or environmental conditions, that directly relate to this infection.
These methods have resulted in reductions in shootings and killings of 16% to 34%.

The Cure Violence method is designed around these principles. This method begins with epidemiological analysis of the clusters involved and transmission dynamics, and uses several new categories of disease control workers – including violence interrupters, outreach behavior change agents, and community coordinators – to interrupt transmission to stop the spread and to change norms around the use of violence. Workers are trained as disease control workers, similar to tuberculosis workers or those looking for first cases of bird flu or SARS.

- http://cureviolence.org/what-we-do/

Another recent article on the topic is: Can Murder Be Tracked Like An Infectious Disease? by Shankar Vedantam.

Older articles on the topic include: Violence may be a 'socially infectious disease', Gun Violence Is Social Disease, Public Health Experts Say and Is It Time to Treat Violence Like a Contagious Disease?.

Meme inoculations, therapy and engineering have potential for treating other disorders besides violence. Drug abuse, road rage and many other mental health disorders could likely be treated as infectious diseases. However, first academics need to understand the idea of cultural epidemiology before they can properly investigate hypotheses based on it.

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