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Violence, Conflict and Trauma

In 2002, the World Health Organization published a seminal report on Violence and Health, demanding greater attention from public health professionals to examine the causes and consequences of violence and the development of preventive strategies. Faculty at the Yale School of Public Health are involved in the teaching of and research on the negative health consequences of interpersonal violence on women’s health, as well as the effects of violence and forced displacement on neighborhoods.

YSPH researchers are developing interventions to improve trauma-informed care, as well as technology-delivered interventions to reduce the impact of violence exposure on young families.

Alongside the well-known public health consequences of global conflict and displacement, including increased mortality, higher risks of malnutrition and spread of infectious diseases, many displaced people require longer-term care for chronic conditions, including mental health issues resulting from protracted conflict. These factors, along with the economic and social impacts of conflict and displacement, put existing healthcare and social services under strain. Current YSPH research has brought attention to the neglect and abuse of women in childbirth, unmet mental health needs, and HIV risk in populations displaced by violence.

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Sarah Lowe, PhD, on a Public Health Approach to Mental Health

Sarah Lowe, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Yale School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the long-term mental health consequences of a range of potentially traumatic events, from hurricanes to pandemics.

While doing her clinical training with trauma survivors at a community health care center in Boston, Lowe's patients were dealing with more immediate life stressors, like not having a place to live.

"That showed me that you can't understand mental health without paying attention to the context and the social and economic stressors that trauma survivors face," she says. Lowe explains that within public health "we're able to look at those things simultaneously. So both the symptoms and treating symptoms but also thinking about systems and policies that both put people at risk for trauma, but then make their traumatic experiences even more negatively impactful."

As a disaster mental health researcher, Lowe immediately knew the COVID-19 pandemic was going to be a mental health crisis. She's collaborated with students and other faculty on work related to the pandemic and mental health, particularly the mental health burden of health care workers on the frontlines.

"I can say in this pandemic, Yale was able to provide support to me and to my colleagues to do really cutting-edge research. Just observing my colleagues on the forefront of the response to the pandemic doing things like modeling transmission, understanding the genetics of the virus, that's been really really inspiring to see."