This briefing paper describes the contribution Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) have made to the global understanding of violence against children and examples of how the surveys can be positioned to become a global surveillance system to track and monitor the burden of violence against children.
Read the full Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS): Towards a global surveillance system report, which provides information about the history, implementation, ethical protections, utility, results, limitations, and future directions of the Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) work.
CDC research brief: The value of accurate, timely data on the burden of violence against children and youth
Violence against children is a serious problem and increasingly a global public health, human rights, and development priority. Although violence against children is common around the globe, few countries have population-level data on the prevalence of violence. The Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) provide a platform and resource for countries to measure the burden of violence and direct program and policy efforts to address it. VACS are national, household surveys designed to capture the magnitude and prevalence of violence against children in a given country. The surveys collect information on sexual, emotional, and physical violence, the perpetrators, and circumstances, such as time of day and location. The surveys also include information about health status, risk behaviors, and other factors.
This paper describes the contribution VACS have made to the global understanding of violence against children and examples of how the surveys can be positioned to become a global surveillance system to track and monitor the burden of violence against children. The VACS present an opportunity for global investment in the surveillance of violence against children and the commitment to responding to these data with evidence-based prevention and response programs and policies.
Key points from the report
There are multiple unique and innovative contributions of VACS that position it to fill an existing gap in violence surveillance:
VACS presents an opportunity to develop a global surveillance system for childhood violence, as a result of several unique features and components of the VACS and its approach.
Responding to VACS data
Government commitment to respond to VACS data is a key component of the VACS planning process. VACS findings are the basis for national governments and civil society to make evidence-informed coordinated policy and program changes, including legal and policy reform, improved services for children who have experienced violence, and prevention programs. Although VACS in itself is not a surveillance system, because it only collects data from a single point in time, it is well poised for use in surveillance by repeating the survey at regular intervals.
The data from each VACS completed continue to demonstrate the urgency for a global response to the violence inflicted upon children worldwide. The global investment in the surveillance of violence against children through VACS and the commitment to respond to these data with evidence-based programs and policies is necessary to begin addressing this critical public health issue. A surveillance system to facilitate this effort is overdue; expanding VACS from a ‘single point in time’ survey to one that is used as the basis of periodic surveillance or contributes to an existing surveillance system can bridge this gap.