LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Services (SPHIS) has been awarded $5.7 million to establish a Youth Violence Prevention Research Center. The goal is to address the issue of youth, particularly those in west Louisville, who are affected by violence.
Intentional injury is the leading cause of death among 10-to-24-year-olds in Kentucky, and it is the second leading cause of death for the same age group nationally. Violent crime rates for west Lousville are significantly higher than surrounding areas, according to a news release from UofL, which cites 338 juvenile arrests for violent crimes in west Louisville 2014 compared to 876 for the rest of the city.
"The CDC acknowledges youth violence as a preventable public health problem for individuals and communities," UofL President James Ramsey said. "We are working to be part of the solution, as the Youth Violence Prevention Research Center builds on our Signature Partnership Initiative that reaches west Louisvillians and seeks to enhance their quality of life and economic opportunities, creating a healthier Kentucky."
The Center will be led by Dr. Monica Wendel, SPHIS associate professor and associate dean of public health practice, and Dr. Maury Nation, associate professor of the Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education and Human Development.
Researchers and their partners will develop, implement and evaluate a community-level mass and social media campaign to change social norms. The initiative is aimed at reducing violence among youth living in west Louisville. East Nashville, TN will serve as the project's control site.
Wendel said for youth in disadvantaged communities, norms of violence are an acceptable means of gaining respect.
"Historical patterns of racial discrimination, inequality and lack of economic opportunity have helped foster these beliefs that promote and condone violence. When a distinct portion of the population systematically does not receive justice from the institutions of society, they begin to believe that the only justice they receive is justice they exact themselves," Wendel said.
Wendel plans to recruit six young people ages 16 to 24 to work part-time for the Center assisting with campaign development and testing. They will be known as Louisville Youth Voices Against Violence (LYVV) Scholars.
Community partners include: Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW), Louisville Metro Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN), Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD), Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), IDEAS xlab, Renaissance Creative Group, and KentuckyOne Health. Once the campaign is developed, multiple organizations have committed to serve as implementation partners, including the Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition, KentuckianaWorks Youth Career Center, Kentucky YMCA Youth Services, Louisville Central Community Centers, Louisville Urban League, Louisville Metro Juvenile Detention Services, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice, PEACE Education Program, Restorative Justice, the Center for Women & Families, and the YMCA of Greater Louisville.
"Youth violence has serious and permanent consequences for the individuals and families directly involved," Congressman John Yarmuth said. "It also results in significant costs to our judicial, education, and health care systems, while squandering the ability of so many young people to succeed in life and contribute to society. That is why I am proud to support this federal investment which has the potential to save lives, benefit our entire community, and create a model that can help other cities tackle this problem."
"Too many young people see violence as the only way to resolve issues, and we've got to find a way to turn that around," Mayor Greg Fischer said. "We've got to show our young people another way. I'm excited about this effort to get out in front of the issues challenging so many in our community, and I'm thrilled to have our Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods take part in this partnership."