The Social-Ecological Model of Health

According to the WHO, the social-ecological framework consists of four nested layers, with the individual wrapped by their interpersonal relationships, community contexts and societal norms. The four layers of the

Social-Ecological Model of Health (SEM) correspond with the SDoH, and provide a plan of action for understanding the experience of health, as well as preventing illness and disease, and promoting health and well-being (CDC 2014; WHO 2016b). Over time, and when applied to various social problems, the nomenclature of these four layers changes, and at times, expands to five (individual or intrapersonal, interpersonal, organisational, community and public policy) (CDC 2015). For our analysis, and to highlight the critical role that the institutions of crime play in law enforcement, we have adopted a four-layer model, with the individual wrapped by communal, institutional and social spheres, which, as a whole, constitute the social-ecology of public safety (see Fig. 7.1 below).

Irrespective of the labels assigned to the model, it is a development tool that maps the wider contexts of health emanating from the individual. As policy and practice move out from the tertiary care and treatment

The social-ecological model of health provided to the individual

Fig. 7.1 The social-ecological model of health provided to the individual, the strategies become more widely applicable, move upstream to become preventative interventions and have population effects rather than individual effects alone (Frieden 2010). For policing scholars—within or outside of the public health lens—this model may be familiar, even if its name or its labels are not. The remit of police may appear in popular culture and political soundbites to be focussed on the experiences of an individual victim or offender (and perhaps their family and community), but much police work (including their legislated roles and functions, and the criminal law itself) has a broader mandate (Burris et al. 2010; Ratcliffe 2015). This is especially the case in the prevention of crime, which is necessarily aimed at the population level even if police also attend to the selected and indicated interventions required for communities and individuals. It is unsurprising, then, that this model has been applied to violence prevention. The CDC’s (2014) SEM of violence prevention frames much of the work undertaken by the US, the UK and Australian governments on crime prevention.

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