Public Health Practices to Stem Violence in Vulnerable Populations

Sounds like a snoozer but I’m betting it will be anything but on Tuesday, February 14 when Frontline airs “The Interrupters.” Awarded “Best Documentary of 2011,” this two-hour program follows three CeaseFire Chicago “violence interrupters.” Their goal? To stop the next act of gun violence from occurring in much the same way public health officials work to stop the next contagious act when dealing with a public health threat.

This was the premise of a crime show I saw last year. It caught my attention because it made so much sense to reach the person at the moment of decision and offer them another way to view the situation as they decide upon their next step. It also intrigued me that an epidemiologist envisioned this approach. In my experience, when people think outside the box and come to a problem with fresh eyes, the ideas that bubble up create an entirely new paradigm. It’s exciting. And redefining what it means to be a hero in communities rife with gun violence is certainly an enterprise that’s worth our time and attention.

The organization in the film, CeaseFire, was developed in 1995 by an epidemiologist, Dr. Gary Slutkin, to reduce gun violence among youth. You can hear Slutkin speak about Disrupting Violence in this video, or read more about the CeaseFire approach. A current evaluation of the CeaseFire program in Chicago by the National Institute of Justice found that “all seven communities experienced statistically significant reduction in gun violence.”

Join me in viewing “The Interrupters” on Tuesday night. Then check back here to post your comments.

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