Overcoming the “Roadblock to Progress”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health foundation, continues to take a big lead in the field of violence prevention with the release of a new YouTube video capsulizing the work of Cure Violence.

“Research shows exposure to violence not only causes more violence, but causes family dysfunction and other health problems.  It’s the roadblock to all kinds of progress,” according to Gary Slutkin, M.D., Founder and Executive Director of Cure Violence.

Slutkin, an epidemiologist and Professor of International Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health returned to Chicago in 1995 after spending years overseas working to control and prevent the spread of infectious disease. What he observed in Chicago was a city mired in violence. He discovered that violence was clustered in neighborhoods and followed infectious disease patterns that spread as a contagion and was equally as toxic as the infectious disease he fought in the U.S., Africa and Asia.   Slutkin created Cure Violence, a health based approach to violence prevention, based on the premise that violence is a health issue similar to other epidemics and required similar health treatment.

The model involves interrupting transmission of crimes before they occur, changing individual behavior, and changing norms. Much like with chronic diseases, the Cure Violence approach identifies high-risk behavior and works to change norms that encourage such behaviors.  The model is especially successful because the interrupters on the ground come from the very communities with which they work. Preexisting knowledge and shared experiences give these individuals both credibility and special insight into the needs of their community.

The Cure Violence approach works. Dr. Oxiris Barbot, former Baltimore Health Commissioner, stressed that the Cure Violence approach saved Baltimore over $5 million during an extensive three year evaluation by reducing the costs associated with homicides and disabilities that occur from acts of violence.  Barbot is currently the first deputy commission of health for New York City.  In August, NYC Mayor DeBlasio and the City Council announced a city-wide expansion of the Cure Violence approach to all major areas in NYC which account for the highest incidents of gun violence.

A special thanks to the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation for their assistance in creating our new video, the Cure Violence Promise. The network of individuals whom violence affects extends far beyond the act’s immediate victim. Cure Violence works to minimize the consequences of violence on friends, family members and entire communities deeply affected by violent crime.

Co-authored with Kathy Buettner.