Author: Co-Chair John James

Violence in the city of Cleveland is very problematic because it negatively impacts the quality of life in a community and neighborhood. Neighborhood areas in the city of Cleveland that are plagued by violence often see significant disinvestment of businesses, jobs and people as they leave the city and relocate to other communities that can provide a better quality of life. Further disinvestment can lead to further erosion of a neighborhood, leading to a decrease in social capital, diminished quality assets (both physical and social) along with increased socio-economic decay that comes with a huge cost.

Violence also erodes the physical, psychological, social, and economic health and development of nearly everyone residing in these affected communities. Direct and indirect exposure to violence can inflict emotional, psychological and physical trauma along with reducing life expectancy, limiting opportunity and furthering social inequalities. Unfortunately, violence can move from one generation to the next due to the negative behaviors and attitudes that are learned and internalized, which not only affects individual families but entire communities that become the true victims to this major health epidemic.

The epidemic of violence can show up in many different forms such as homicide, sexual assault, gang violence, child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, violent exploitation such as human trafficking and illegal prostitution, along with hate crimes. Some notable statistics regarding violence and the ill health effects it can cause include:

  • Violence is the number one cause of death for African American and Latino males aged 15 to 24.

  • In many cities across the United State, violence is the leading cause of death for all people under the age of 34.

  • Since 1960, more than 1 million people have died in the United States from intentional violence.

Indirect health effects due to violence exposure can lead to the following:

  • Development of chronic diseases (Heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes)

  • Mental health complications (PTSD, stress, anxiety, depression, anger issues)

  • Lower quality of life and increased risk of perpetrating violence

We can help address this problem by using a public health approach to effectively preventing violence and by treating those members in the population that are at risk for violence. In order to effectively deal with the problem of violence, there has to be a therapeutic approach used by public health practitioners on identifying and treating those individuals who are at risk for displaying violent behavior along with providing a prescription of treatment, social-health support services, and resources to assist and treat this targeted population.

Violence is considered a behavior and the public health sector deals with changing behaviors in order to encourage a healthier life style and quality of life among residents in the community. The expertise of the public health sector and the hospital community is needed to effectively address this problem. A joint partnership between public health and the hospital community on initiating epidemic control methods in places where the epidemic of violence is very high can result in positive healing outcomes for these communities.

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