Oakland, CA: Violence is preventable, not inevitable, but efforts to truly prevent violence affecting youth must start long before arrests and incarcerations—and must involve city leadership, says Oakland-based Prevention Institute. Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) renewed its commitment to this approach: the three-year CDC award to Prevention Institute's Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) represents one of the most significant national investments in working with cities to prevent violence.
An early UNITY assessment revealed that cities with more coordination have lower rates of violence, yet most cities don't have a comprehensive plan for preventing violence. In 2005, under a five year grant from the CDC, UNITY began its groundbreaking work to help cities around the country put effective prevention in place, bringing together people from multiple agencies, departments and sectors—from education to public transportation to communities.
"Why does someone call the mayor to fix a pothole?" asks UNITY Project Director Rachel Davis. "Because the city has the ability to marshal resources, services and agencies to make real change on a neighborhood level. Thanks to this investment from the CDC, we help cities use that kind of attention and coordinated focus to work with communities and prevent violence." Strategies include:
- Ensuring every young person has a caring adult: The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Youth Sports Department connected youth with positive adult coaches and activities.
- Strengthening economic recovery in impoverished neighborhoods: In Detroit, a community coalition is planning a transportation system to move residents safely and directly—promoting safety, access to job and training opportunities, and community re-investment.
- Fostering community engagement and empowerment: Boston Public Health employs neighborhood residents to organize, lead and implement community-based solutions to preventing violence.
"Prevention works," says Minneapolis Police Department Lieutenant Michael Sullivan, "It's working right here, right now, in my city, where we reduced violence by 40% in just two years—and then brought it down another 20%. And we didn't do it by increasing arrests. We did it by giving young people opportunities to thrive." Still, Davis notes, cities need more. "The CDC's support allows us to help cities implement strategies that work. We hope other funders follow their lead and dedicate new resources directly to city governments so cities can make the greatest impact possible."
UNITY's accomplishments include a national assessment on youth violence prevention in US cities; the creation of a robust City Network including cities across the country; the release of the UNITY Urban Agenda to Prevent Violence, endorsed by 14 major US cities in 2010; a growing UNITY National Consortium with hundreds of members; and strong national partnerships with groups such as American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National League of Cities.
UNITY is a key part of CDC's national youth violence prevention initiative, STRYVE—Striving To Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere. This work brings together leading thinkers and practitioners from business, government, academia, and nonprofits to share ideas, work to prioritize prevention, and implement solutions based on the best available evidence. Find out more about UNITY at www.preventioninstitute.org/unity.
Through training, consultation, and information about the problem and solutions, UNITY (Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth) supports US cities in advancing more effective, sustainable efforts to prevent violence before it occurs so that urban youth can thrive in safe environments with supportive relationships and opportunities for success. UNITY is coordinated by Prevention Institute, in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and the UCLA School of Public Health Southern California Injury Prevention Research Center.
Prevention Institute is a national non-profit organization, established in 1997, dedicated to placing prevention at the center of efforts to improve community health, equity and well-being. The Institute specializes in building capacity among community-based organizations and government agencies at the local, state, and federal level to develop strategies for environmental, policy, and systems-level changes to prevent illness and injury in the first place. Find us at www.preventioninstitute.org.
UNITY is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number. 5 US4 CE924970-04 to Prevention Institute from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC.
UNITY is funded in part by a grant from The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF). Created in 1992 as an independent, private foundation, TCWF's mission is to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.
CDC's Striving To Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere (STRYVE) is a national initiative to prevent youth violence. Guided by a public health approach, STRYVE provides direction on youth violence prevention action that is collaborative, comprehensive, and based upon the best available evidence Learn more at www.safeyouth.gov.