Volunteers Help Inner-City Chicago Children Prevent Injuries

On January 1, 1995, Chicago Youth Programs (CYP), in conjunction with Children's Memorial Hospital, became the third site of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids program. Karen Sheehan, MD, a pediatrician and co-founder of CYP in 1984, is the site's project director. Co-founder Joseph DiCara, MD, a pediatrician, moonlights as Chicago Youth Programs' unpaid executive director.

Barbara Barlow, MD, founder of the Injury Free program, learned of Sheehan and DiCara through a contact at Children's Memorial Hospital. She was impressed by their dedication in donating much of their free time to providing medical care to youth in the Cabrini Green Housing Project.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program Injury Free Coalition for Kids: Dissemination of a Model Injury Prevention Program for Children and Adolescents.

Key Results

  • During the three-year grant, the original project, the Cabrini Green Youth Program (CGYP) was cloned, creating the Washington Park Youth Program and, most recently, the Uptown Community Project. Reflecting the broader reach, the organization was renamed Chicago Youth Programs.
  • The project serves more than 400 youth at the three locations.
  • The site reports that it provides its activities and services, including health care, for an average cost of $437 per child per year.
  • Since 1992, 93 percent of the participants have achieved, at minimum, a high school education, and avoided jail, pregnancy, and violence, as compared with 39 percent of the same population of teens prior to 1992.
  • The base line data do not show as large a decline as might be expected because many activities and interventions had been under way for a decade before injury monitoring began in 1994 (one year before Children's Memorial Hospital's and Chicago Youth Programs' involvement with the program).
  • The injury data help provide directions for developing appropriate youth activities. Among effective intervention activities, Sheehan points to a comprehensive teen program (Career, Recreation, Children Teaching Children, Scholarship Program, and Clinic).
  • The injury prevention activities were folded into, and complemented, CYP's already well developed fabric of health, mentoring, educational, and recreational activities, and interventions.

The foundation of the Children's Memorial Hospital is raising $1 million to support two new advocacy centers for intentional and unintentional injury: the Violence Injury Prevention Center and the Center for Child Safety. Sheehan is on the boards of both centers.