SPRINGFIELD – All this week, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck encourages parents, schools, communities, law enforcement and government leaders to recognize National Youth Violence Prevention Week by identifying ways to curb youth violence across Illinois. Youth violence is the second leading cause of death for youth 10 to 24 years of age, both nationally and in Illinois. Homicide among people aged 15–24 years accounts for more deaths than from cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, birth defects, influenza and pneumonia combined.
“No single intervention will stop every violent act - violent behavior is complex. It involves multiple factors and generally requires a comprehensive approach to address,” said Dr. Hasbrouck, a former medical epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Violence Prevention and co-author of the Surgeon General's Report on Youth Violence (2001). “Violence is preventable, not inevitable, and we must all work together to develop peaceful and productive alternatives to violence.”
Violence increases health care costs, decreases property values, disrupts social services, and threatens the success of businesses. When youth violence occurs, quality of life diminishes, and communities cannot thrive. Youth violence prevention action is critical to the short- and long-term health, safety and viability of a community.
Risk factors that can lead to violence may include past victimization, family conflict, rejection by peers, drugs, alcohol and lack of community involvement. Depression, anxiety and other health problems are all associated with the effects of violence.
Protective factors that can help prevent youth violence include mentoring, parental training and involvement, non-violent conflict resolution, social skills building, and support systems in the community.
Last August, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation creating a six member Youth Violence Prevention Task Force to stem the epidemic of violence impacting today’s youth. Sponsored by State Representative LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) and State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), the task force has been meeting and developing a youth violence prevention strategy that will involve increasing awareness of job opportunities for at-risk youth, assisting religious and community groups and organizations whose mission is to curb violence, and coordinating with mental health providers to assure they are present in communities that need them.
Dr. Hasbrouck encourages Illinoisans to check out the numerous Youth Violence Prevention resources on the IDPH website at www.idph.state.il.us/YouthViolencePrevention/index.htm.
One key element in reducing youth violence involves developing partnerships in communities across the state to prevent violence. IDPH is working to expand and cultivate its public and private partnerships to advance public health in the state, one of the priorities in theIDPH Five Year Strategy 2014-2018. For a copy of the strategic plan, go to www.idph.state.il.us/about/StrategicPlan_Final_2014-2018.pdf.