Recently, however, interpersonal attacks have drawn the attention of public health practitioners as well as criminal justice officials (e.g., see Mercy and O'Carroll, 1988; Health Resources and Services Administration, 1986). The reason is that injuries have emerged as one of the principal threats to the nation's health. Moreover, "intentional injuries" (which includes suicides, homicides, and aggravated assaults among other violent episodes) account for a surprisingly large proportion of all injuries (National Committee for Injury Prevention and Control, 1989).
Indeed, among all citizens in the United States, suicides and homicides have become the eleventh leading cause of death. Among citizens aged 15-34, homicides are now the third leading cause of death, and among black males aged 15-34, homicide is now the leading cause of death. Moreover, because intentional injuries occur disproportionately among younger Americans, they account for an unexpectedly large proportion of the total "years of potential life lost" in the United States each year (National Committee for Injury Prevention and Control, 1989:192). Behind the statistics on homicides and suicides lies a much larger but less well documented number of less severe injuries that degrade the health of the victims and make substantial claims on the nation's hard-pressed public hospitals (see Cohen et al., in this volume).
In short, the health consequences of criminal violence are now large enough to show up as a significant component of the nation's overall health problems. Criminal violence exacts a particularly large toll from the health of those who are least advantaged in the society. These simple facts make violence a concern for the public health community as well as the criminal justice community.
However, there are other reasons for the public health community to become involved in efforts to control criminal violence. Over the years, in controlling epidemics of cholera, smallpox, and polio, and in dealing with other kinds of injuries such as auto fatalities, public health researchers and practitioners have developed analytical and operational approaches that can usefully complement the approaches now being taken by criminal justice researchers and practitioners to control criminal violence (for a discussion of these techniques and approaches, see Friedman, 1987).