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Safe Blog

How do we keep children safe? It starts with data

22nd September 2023


  • Greta Massetti CDC
    Greta Masseti

    Principal Deputy Director, CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

To prevent violence we must first understand it. Combining the best quality data with evidence-based frameworks allows governments to inform public health action to ensure every young person has the opportunity to live violence-free and thrive.

Violence against children and youth is a global human rights and public health crisis. One billion children experience some form of violence every year - that's half the children in the world - who experience sexual, physical, emotional violence, or a combination.

Violence doesn't just affect children in terms of the immediate consequences, it also causes ripple effects that reverberate through a child's life.

The consequences of violence

The lifetime consequences of violence against children include impacts on mental health, maternal and child health issues, life opportunities, risk behaviors and disease outcomes that are chronic and long-standing:

Mental health

Mental health problems

  • Depression and anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Suicide
  • Eating / sleep disorders


  • Internal injury
  • Head injury
  • Fractures
  • Burns
Maternal health

Maternal & child health

  • Unintended and adolescent pregnancy
  • Foetal death
  • Pregnancy complications
Life opportunities

Life opportunities

  • High school non-completion
  • Unemployment
  • Household poverty

Risk behaviours

  • Alcohol & drugs
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • Multiple partners
  • Unsafe sexual practices

Disease outcomes

  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol disorders
  • STDs
  • HIV
Using data to understand violence

The Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS)

VACS allow national governments to use quality data to inform public health action to prevent and respond to violence.

Before VACS there was very little national data on violence against children

This work started with the first Violence Against Children and Youth Survey in the Kingdom of Eswatini - then known as Swaziland - in 2007.

Eswatini VACS Report 2007Eswatini Priority Indicator Report 2022

The objective was to collect high-quality, comprehensive data on violence against children and its consequences, its risk and protective factors, and its contexts, and to use those data to drive programmatic action and policy decisions to protect children.

Since 2007 the surveys have grown exponentially

23 countries across the world have collected high quality data and are using that data to inform public health action.

Creating a safer world

7 strategies to end violence against children

VACS data is used to inform the implementation of INSPIRE.

INSPIRE is a technical package of 7 strategies to end violence against children. It was developed by CDC and the World Health Organization in partnership with Together for Girls and 9 other international agencies.

It uses the best-available information that has shown what works to prevent violence and respond to victims in a supportive way.

These 7 INSPIRE strategies are essential components to ensuring that children are supported and have an opportunity to thrive and develop into happy youth throughout their lifespan.

INSPIRE framework image

Solutions grounded in INSPIRE


SASA! Initiative

An effective intervention focused on community mobilization programs to change attitudes, norms and behaviors with direct intervention at the community level


Malawi's Social Cash Transfer program

Using VACS data to inform the 7 INSPIRE strategies

VACS indicators that directly measure 6 of the 7 INSPIRE strategies (all but the "I" of implementation of laws). Those data elements are used in the Data to Action process to inform decisions about implementing programs to prevent and respond to violence.

Case study: Kenya
Credit: UNICEF from Kenya National Action Plan 2019-2023

2010 - 2019: A decade of change

Kenya’s experience shows what is possible when governments can leverage comprehensive VACS data to inform policies and programs to prevent violence. Kenya had tremendous success in violence reduction between its first and second VACS.

In the decade between Kenya's 2010 VACS and its 2019 VACS there were evident declines in every form of violence for young people. The lifetime prevalence of sexual, physical and emotional violence for both males and females significantly dropped.

Out of the first VACS of 2010, Kenya built its National Action Plan for 2013-2018. Then in 2019 this plan was updated with new data from the second VACS. This is a comprehensive process that is iterative and multi-sectoral at heart.

The prevalence of any childhood sexual violence experienced by 18-24 year olds:

INSPIRE strategies feature in Kenya's updated national action plan

The second Kenyan National Action Plan 2019-2023 covers 6 strategic areas aligned to the INSPIRE framework. It recognizes the successes but recommits to prioritizing violence prevention.

Our partnership uses survey data to better understand violence against children and adolescents, and create solutions that prevent and respond to those different types of violence.

Violence against children is a pervasive, global problem, but solutions exist. VACS data shows that through the VACS Data to Action process, countries are reducing rates of violence against children and creating safer communities.

Kenya 2019 nap inspire strategies