August 22, 2012

Violence Prevention: A Life Saving Story

You can listen to my personal experience with gun violence (click play above) or read the story in my post on  In writing this post, I reached out to Dr. Carl Bell, a psychiatrist and national leading public health expert on violence prevention. He helped me think more about basic principles of violence prevention, which in his view involve:
  • rebuilding the neighborhoods and communities
  • providing adequate access to affordable, high quality health care
  • enabling supportive programs that build self-esteem and increasing social skills
  • reestablishing the adult protective shield for young people
  • minimizing the residual effects of trauma
In "Violence Prevention 101: Implications for Policy Development" Dr. Bell states that "these principles are interdependent and are key guiding principles for effecting large, systemic changes in health behavior."  

Furthermore, Dr. Bell also talks about the importance of collaboration because it takes the forces of combined leadership to engage with communities in search of solutions through policy and practice.   It also takes understanding the different kinds of violence and the root cause that are specific to geographic locations and local populations. Policy efforts can be shaped with compelling evidence and stories demonstrating the cost and life saving value of prevention and effective harm reduction strategies.

For example, the New York City neighborhood where I grew the "Peace is a Lifestyle" campaign to put an end to gun violence in the streets of New York City, which is among the most prevalent form of violence affecting the lives young people in already vulnerable communities.

Death Rates from Gun Homicides for Males (Aged 25-34)
City Limits chart using CDC data shows violence disproportionately affects young men of color, particularly in African American communities.

The landscape of violence moving across America is striking. Dr. William Petit's story of losing his family to a violent home invasion in a Connecticut suburb feels like Truman Capote's narrative where incomprehensible acts of violence, loss of life stun, enrage and numb.  When medical school Dean Dr. Steven Berk's The Anatomy of A Kidnapping opens his own telling of a late night gunpoint encounter it becomes more evident that violence is a pervasive and growing epidemic from Main Street to heart of the city.  It's an experience that trauma and emergency medical centers know too well, but a story for America to behold for better days ahead.

I've pledged with the Centers for Disease Control to educate others about the full scope of violence: it can be emotional, physical, and/or sexual in nature. You can also Veto Violence by clicking the link below:


Bell CC. Violence prevention 101: Implications for policy development. In: Perspective on crime and justice: 2000–2001 Lecture Series. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice; 2002: 65–94 

Berk SL. Anatomy of a Kidnapping: A Doctor's Story. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech Univ; 2012.


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