Violence is a substantial threat to the health and safety of youth in Chicago. In 2011, 433 people in Chicago died of violence-related causes. Children are exposed to violence in their communities, schools and homes, and the effects of exposure to violence can last throughout a lifetime. To achieve Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago's vision of making Chicago the healthiest city in the nation for children, we must build communities’ and families’ capacity and skills to raise safe, resilient, emotionally healthy youth.
Many organizations in Chicago are working to prevent and control youth violence; Chicago-based programs are achieving laudable results and many are looked to as models that could be adopted nationwide. Yet lack of coordination and communication among these organizations too frequently hampers their effectiveness. Taking a public health approach to youth violence—adopting consistent messaging about the preventability of violence, promoting use of evidence-based violence prevention strategies and fostering multi-sector collaboration—will encourage partnerships that strengthen existing efforts and benefit the children of Chicago.
Strengthening Chicago’s Youth (SCY) is convened by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago to build capacity among numerous public and private stakeholders to connect, collaborate and mobilize around a public health approach to violence prevention. SCY is modeled on the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), which supports, coordinates and unites partners to promote policy and environmental change. Materials, training and technical assistance will be offered to foster innovative partnerships among multiple sectors, encourage involvement in policy and advocacy, and support adoption of effective, sustainable violence prevention strategies.
By building on the hospital’s commitment to the children of Chicago and success with CLOCC, Lurie Children’s Hospital is well positioned to convene this effort. As a children’s health care provider, the hospital can apply its philosophy of providing family-centered, culturally effective and developmentally appropriate care to addressing the sensitive topic of violence prevention. As a well-known community institution “where kids come first,” Lurie Children’s Hospital will have unique credibility with the broad range of stakeholders—from educators to law enforcement, from youth development organizations to survivors’ groups—that must be engaged for a comprehensive violence prevention initiative to be successful. As a non-governmental organization, the hospital can provide a neutral forum in which partners from various sectors can collaborate on violence prevention rather than feeling compelled to compete for limited public funding.