Hospitals: Essential Partners in Violence Prevention Work

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Supported by the California Endowment, this post is part of a series, “Galvanizing the Civic Sector to Reduce Gun Violence.” The series focuses on what several sectors parents, teens, schools, hospitals, law enforcement, the faith community, the philanthropic and business sectors, civic leaders and others can do, independent of state and federal legislative activity, to reduce violence and the number of gun-related injuries and deaths.

“We can’t just patch up folks and send them back. When they show up in our emergency rooms, we have the opportunity to discover what’s really going on, what led to these wounds in the first place.”
– Yvonne Madlock, Director, Shelby County [Memphis, TN] Health Department

Where there is violent crime, there are hospitals; and where hospitals exist, there stands in the wings an essential partner for violence prevention work.

What hospitals can and do bring to the table ranges from basic medical services to provision of data, from tattoo removal programs to hosting intervention programs to neighborhood involvement – even neighborhood reclamation.

At the most basic level, hospitals can provide data that tell the story of patients who are victimized by violence.  And the story they tell is graphic, grim and, sadly, no mystery.  Except for several highly publicized school shootings, most of the victims of violence, via stabbings or shootings, are poor.  Many victims come to the hospital with little education, scant family support, a great deal of anger, fear and pain, bleak prospects for the future and a desire for revenge.  They are more often than not boys or young men of color with obscenely easy access to guns.  They have grown up in a culture of violence often at home, usually in the neighborhood and sometimes on the way to school.  Fear has inhibited their ability to learn.  As Shawn Dove of the Open Society Foundations has said, “These kids can’t get out of Vietnam.”  Once shot, many victims will return from the hospital either permanently injured or dead.

If a hospital only provides data, it has already given the crime and violence prevention community a gift, a prism through which prevention and intervention services can become clear.  Yet, there is much more that hospitals are doing to stem the violence that sends so many Americans to their emergency rooms.

This post, based on interviews with top public health officials in communities across the nation, explores some of the factors motivating hospitals and their personnel to engage in violence prevention work, highlights promising strategies that hospitals throughout the country are using to reduce violence in their surrounding neighborhoods, and describes notable examples of intervention programs that are hospital-based or involve hospitals as key partners.

To read the post in its entirety, click here.

Jack Calhoun
About the Author: Jack Calhoun is a senior consultant to NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families in the areas of family policy and youth violence prevention. Follow Jack on Twitter at @HopeMattersOrg.