Is Violence in America a Public Health Crisis?

For the Huffington Post, Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman suggests that we look at violence in America as a public health crisis rather than a crime problem in light of the spate of recent mass shootings.

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President Obama hugs the mother of a Newtown, Conn., shooting victim in April. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman suggests in a piece at the Huffington Post that we look at violence in America as a public health crisis rather than a crime problem in light of the spate of recent mass shootings.

... What if we look for promising practices and expanded the ones that work to eliminate the epidemic of violence that keeps our graveyards, jails, and prisons full? That is exactly the approach recommended by a panel of the nation's leading gun violence researchers in a report released this week by the Institute of Medicine. Convened by the federal government in the wake of the Newtown shooting, the panel provides a national road map for the research that needs to be done to prevent gun violence and improve public safety, especially for our most vulnerable.

The odds against growing into a productive adulthood are almost overwhelming for Black boys, especially those from impoverished backgrounds. One in three will wind up in jail or prison, and some won't survive to age 21: According to the FBI, in 2011 more than 6,300 African-Americans, mostly young men, were murdered in the United States. The Children's Defense Fund's 2012 national conference featured a panel of physicians and experts who look at this ongoing loss of life and human potential as a public health crisis. Their viewpoint offers a fresh explanation for the culture of violence and points to ways to counteract it.

"We know that stress and trauma have an impact on physical and mental health and brain development," said Dr. John Rich, Chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy at the Drexel University School of Public Health and director of the school’s Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice ... Dr. Rich noted that many of the young men he interviewed display the same symptoms of trauma, like hyper vigilance and emotional numbing, as soldiers returning from a war zone -- and he sees many of the young people caught up in the cycle of violence not as inherently bad people needing punishment, but as injured people who need healing.

Read Marian Wright Edelman's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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