College launches Youth Violence Prevention Initiative
March 19, 2010 College News - The Medical College of Wisconsin and the Medical College’s Consortium on Public and Community Health have committed $8.2 million over the next five years to implement the College’s Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI). It is anticipated that the initiative will continue up to ten years.
The Medical College’s Board of Trustees and the Consortium approved the funding from the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program, the public and community health component of the College’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment.
Addressing what is described in the Wisconsin State Health Plan 2010 as “the most under-recognized major public health problem,” the goals of the Medical College Youth Violence Prevention Initiative are to use a public health approach to decrease rates of violence in identified areas of Milwaukee and, possibly, greater Wisconsin, and to strengthen community capacity to prevent future violence.
“Working in partnership with community leaders and agencies, our goal is to prevent violence from occurring,” said T. Michael Bolger, JD, President and CEO. “This will require a sustained effort to address the complex and deeply-rooted problems that underlie violence in our communities. The Medical College and its community partners will all serve as champions as this initiative unfolds over the next many years.”
“Violence is among the most serious health threats in the nation today,” said Paula Lucey, RN, MSN, Chair of the Medical College’s Consortium on Public and Community Health. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared violence an epidemic in the United States.” Lucey is Executive Director of Willow Glen Academy in Milwaukee and former director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services.
The Medical College of Wisconsin Consortium on Public and Community Health is a nine-member committee that oversees the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program, the community/academic partnership component of Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield United of Wisconsin endowment to the Medical College.
The Consortium board also serves in an advisory capacity regarding the use of Blue Cross endowment funds for research and education at the Medical College. Four members of the Consortium are selected from statewide and community health care advocacy organizations, four are representatives of the Medical College, and one member is named by the Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance.
To address the problem of youth violence, the Medical College’s Consortium on Public and Community Health engaged community stakeholders as it launched an 18-month Youth Violence Prevention Initiative development process in July 2008. The resulting plan was developed by a 21-member steering committee representing community, youth, government officials, Medical College academic partners and Medical College Consortium members. More than 300 community and youth stakeholders were engaged in the process in which they shared their vision of a violence-free Milwaukee.
“We are extremely grateful to the Steering Committee for their dedication and commitment of time to this project,” Lucey said. “The committee conducted more than 25 meetings, reviewed the academic literature and national and local data on risk factors for violence, and best practices for preventing and reducing violence in our communities. Most importantly, the Steering Committee heard the voices of the many community stakeholders and youth confronting violence and its consequences every day.”
The Medical College’s Youth Violence Prevention Initiative reflects an approach in which community participants play an active role in planning and implementing strategies to increase the health of their communities. Using a public health approach, community and academic partners will identify high-risk populations and implement prevention and educational interventions to make a substantial reduction in violence.
Three major priorities will be addressed during the plan’s first five years:
Prevent violence by intervening early with youth 0-11 years
Motivate and influence youth 12-17 years
Educate, develop, catalyze and convene to build capacity for violence prevention with schools, neighborhoods and the broader community.
“Our priorities and goals are deliberately broad so as to provide a framework for community partners to collectively identify strategies and action plans customized to fit each community’s unique strengths and challenges,” said Cheryl Maurana, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Public and Community Health.
Youth violence is a significant public health problem in Milwaukee and southeast Wisconsin, the region of the state with the highest homicide rate. Of the 71 homicides in Milwaukee in 2008, 14% involved victims under 18 and 11% involved suspects under 18. Significant geographic disparities exist with some Milwaukee neighborhoods facing homicide rates nearly ten times higher than the citywide average.
Homicide is the nation’s second leading cause of death among all youth ages 10-24. It is the leading cause of death among African-American youth in the same age category. In 2007, more than 668,000 young people nationwide were treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained from violence, at an estimated cost exceeding $158 billion annually.
Funding for the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative is made possible through the Medical College’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment. The endowment was created through funds awarded to The Medical College of Wisconsin when Blue Cross and Blue Shield United of Wisconsin converted to a publicly traded firm.