Youth violence – a public health problem?

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Chicago has become the unfortunate center of youth violence in America. Recent studies show that homicide is the second leading cause of death among young Latinos, and the first leading cause of death among young African-Americans.

Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, a Harvard professor and the first woman to be appointed as Commissioner of Public Health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, came to Chicago to have an open conversation with the students of Northwestern University.

EXTRA conducted an interview with her to get a firsthand view on youth violence and her ideas on how we can change that.

EXTRA: How do you define youth violence?

Dr. Prothrow-Stith: Violence that youth witnessed, experienced, or participates. Many of the fights do not have a clear victim, or perpetrator.

How is violence not just a criminal justice issue but also a public health problem?

From a public health view, is that a problem has to become preventable. Criminal justice is reactionary and a direct compliment to prevention work.Youth violence is a preventable behavior. As a society, we try to prevent violence by doing better criminal justice. Instead, we should look to prevent violent crimes before they happen.

What do you think should be done to prevent violence in inner cities, such as Chicago?

Chicago has been the beneficiary of many programs, such as CeaseFire, and the Unity Project. If it continues with projects like these that will help change the culture.

What are the steps that should empower students to make positive changes in their lives?

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