Category Archives: Community violence

Jan 24 2012

Upcoming Webinar: Gun Violence, Mental Illness and Firearms

Swanson Jeffrey Swanson, Duke University School of Medicine

The Public Health Law Research Program as well as the American Society of Law Medicine and Ethics, the Network for Public Health Law and the Public Health Law Association and will be hosting a webinar on Thursday, January 26 at one p.m., looking at laws related to mental illness and firearms. The webinar will focus on what is known about the contribution of mental illness to violence and will consider the implications of research literature for law and policy that seek to limit firearms access for people with mental disorders who may pose a danger to themselves or others. The presentation will discuss research findings on whether current federal and state firearms restrictions reduce gun violence, and will lay out an agenda for needed future research.

>>UPDATE: Check out the recording of Thursday's webinar on the Network for Public Health Law website, here.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Jeffrey Swanson, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, and a presenter for the webinar.

NewPublicHealth: What’s the scope of the problem?

Jeffrey Swanson: Firearm violence is a major public health problem in the U.S. More than 300,000 people died from gunshot injuries from 1998 to 2007—a death toll five times greater than the number of U.S. military casualties in the Vietnam War. Very public acts of gun violence by persons with mental illness—such as the mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and in Tucson in 2011—suggest that the current patchwork of state and federal firearms laws may be ineffective at protecting the public from dangerous individuals. But, in fact, research shows that the large majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and that most violent acts are not caused by mental illness.

Two consequences can result from the varying state laws—mentally ill people can be kept from their constitutional right to own a firearm, and some laws can put firearms into the hands of mentally ill people who may use them not to kill others, but to commit suicide.

NPH: What’s the status of your research on the topic?

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Jan 11 2012

Study: CeaseFire Model Can Stop Epidemic of Gun Violence, Replicated in Baltimore

Men talking in lobby of metro system.

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

New research released today reinforces the concept that gun violence can be reduced and prevented by taking a public health approach to the problem. Findings from a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health show that shootings and killings in even America’s most violent communities can be reduced using the CeaseFire model—a model that employs disease control and behavior change strategies to reduce violence. CeaseFire employs ex-offenders who have unique credibility with community members and effectiveness in getting people to rethink the impulse to resolve disputes using guns.

Safe Streets Baltimore was launched by the Baltimore City Health Department in 2007 as a CeaseFire replication site, and research released today represents the first rigorous study of a replication of the CeaseFire model. In Baltimore, researchers found the Safe Streets program cut homicides by more than half in the Cherry Hill neighborhood. An earlier Department of Justice evaluation found 41 to 73 percent drops in shootings and killings in CeaseFire zones in Chicago.

NewPublicHealth spoke with CeaseFire founder, Gary Slutkin, about the CeaseFire model earlier this year. “If you release yourself from preconceived ideas about good and bad people and just look at what is actually happening, empirically you see that [violence] spreads like any other infectious disease,” said Slutkin. In another interview, Tio Hardiman, director for CeaseFire Illinois, commented on the CeaseFire approach, “You have to be able to detect conflicts before they arrive and before they escalate.”

Findings from the CeaseFire replication study in Baltimore include:

  • The Safe Streets program cut homicides by more than half in the Cherry Hill neighborhood.
  • In communities studied where Safe Streets wasn’t put into place, young people were seven times more likely to think it is okay to use a gun to settle disputes, compared to young people in Safe Streets neighborhoods.
  • Sites structured to follow the CeaseFire model most closely performed better than sites that deviated from the model. For example, sites that managed the program out of a single location appeared to have a greater impact on reducing shootings and killings than those spread across multiple neighborhoods.
  • The program was associated with reductions in gun violence in 3 of the 4 neighborhoods where Safe Streets was implemented.

UPDATE: Watch Daniel Webster, Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence, talk about the study.

Because of the promising results seen in this evaluation, the Safe Streets program will be expanding, having received a new $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that will help bring the program to additional Baltimore neighborhoods.

>>Bonus: Read a Q&A with Kristin Schubert, director and a specialist within RWJF on violence prevention, on efforts to prevent the spread of violence.


Nov 21 2011

Preventing Violence: A NewPublicHealth Q&A with Kristin Schubert

file Kristin Schubert, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

Violence is preventable. It's a simple statement, but one that has sparked considerable dialogue in the field of public health and beyond. Groups like Start Strong, which works on preventing teen dating abuse by educating pre-teens on healthy relationships, and CeaseFire, which helps prevent the spread of gun shootings and killings by tracking and containing it like an infectious disease, are some of those leading this critical discourse. These programs focus on changing behavioral norms and community conditions so that violence does not spread from act to act, person to person.

NewPublicHealth caught up with Kristin Schubert, MPH, a director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and a specialist within RWJF on violence prevention, about the Foundation’s approach to the issue and strategies in the field that are working to create change.

NewPublicHealth: What makes violence a public health issue?

Kristin Schubert: When people think of violence, they often think of extreme forms of violence—war, gunshots, gangs. They often don’t think about it in its most holistic forms—intimate partner violence, verbal violence, child maltreatment and neglect, date rape, stalking, bullying—anything that makes a person feel unsafe. When we look at violence in the fullest way, it very much is an issue that affects everybody.

NPH: Tell us more about that. How does violence affect all populations?

Kristin Schubert: You take an issue like intimate partner violence or sexual violence. These are issues that cut across socioeconomic status, all racial and ethnic lines. No one is immune.

Violence is an issue that affects everyone. You might not be the direct recipient, but chances are you know someone who has been affected. Intimate partner violence affects one in four women in this country and one in three women worldwide. And we know that is probably a significant underestimate because of the nature of intimate partner violence—it’s something that has been kept hidden and private, and we’re trying to change that. Just using that statistic alone, you can see this is something that is commonplace and very much, a public health issue.

NPH: Why is violence so pervasive?

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Sep 29 2011

The Interrupters: A NewPublicHealth Q&A With Gary Slutkin

file Gary Slutkin, CeaseFire

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

The Interrupters,” a new documentary, tells the story of three CeaseFire workers who endeavor to stop the same violence they were once involved with in Chicago. CeaseFire is a unique public health approach to stopping violence in communities before it starts. CeaseFire was begun by epidemiologist Gary Slutkin, Ph.D, who uses an infectious disease model in his work. “Go after the most infected and stop the infection at its source.” NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Slutkin about the film and CeaseFire’s model of success.

Watch the trailer for "The Interrupters":

NPH: Tell us about the model for CeaseFire.

Gary Slutkin: CeaseFire is a disease control approach to reducing shootings and killings. We have reevaluated what is going on in the field of violence, scientifically, and used sciences of behavior and of epidemics. Re-dissecting violence you can see that it has the characteristics of any infectious epidemic. If you release yourself from preconceived ideas about good and bad people and just look at what is actually happening, empirically you see that it spreads like any other infectious disease. Therefore, you say well why don’t we actually take the approach that we use to interrupting infectious diseases. It means that we have to detect the potential for an event, in this case a shooting, in other cases it could be for measles or for flu or TB. We have to prevent one event from leading to another, which means that we have to have specialized workers who can have access to information about when a shooting might happen and be trained to be able to persuade that individual or group out of doing it. And so that prevents its spread.

Then we have to put in a second layer of work that prevents relapses. Of course, the third layer is fundamentally shifting the norms about violent behavior. We know how to do norm change. It’s a series of techniques that have to do with diffusing the innovation, using social pressure, using the right peers and involving the whole community.

NewPublicHealth: How did the idea come about to do the film?

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Apr 1 2011

Report: Young Men Increasingly Dying From Suicide, Violence, Accidents

Over the last half century, the worldwide health community has made significant gains in decreasing the impact of communicable diseases.

But those gains are being eroded in one demographic group by suicide, violence and accidents.

Young men worldwide are increasingly dying from these causes, according to a new epidemiologic study released this week in The Lancet.

There is some good news, though. Researchers — using World Health Organization data from fifty countries — found that death rates for young children (those under 14) and young women (age 15-24) declined considerably between 1955 and 2004.

Other notable findings include:

  • By the late 1970s, injury (including suicide, violence and accidents) was the dominant cause of death for young men age 15-24.
  • Death rates from injury for men in this age group increased to one-quarter to one-third of deaths between 2000 and 2004.
  • Deaths in children under five are down, the result of public health efforts to prevent and treat communicable diseases.


In the U.S., next week’s National Public Health Week will help shine light on these issues. The week includes an increased focus on injury prevention including suicide, violence and accidents.

The American Public Health Association has put together a toolkit with more information on injury prevention.

WEIGH IN: Has your community faced these issues? How can communities work to reduce deaths among young men?