VCU teams with CDC to fight youth violence

VCU received a $6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study youth violence and intervention in Richmond, Va. The project will be led by co-principal investigators, Saba Masho and Terri Sullivan.

“In the early 2000’s Richmond had one of the highest youth violence rates,” Masho said. “It was actually one of the top 10 cities with the highest violence and (youth) homicide rates.”

Youth violence will cost an estimated $16 billion in combined medical and work loss costs by the end of the year, and more than 600,000 people may be at risk. According to the CDC, youth violence is the third leading cause of death for young people between ages 15 and 24, but overall the trend is in decline.

“Although over the years youth violence has declined in Richmond city, we still have one of the highest youth violence rates,” Masho said, pointing at data she and Sullivan collected in 2015.

According to Masho and Sullivan’s 2015 research, Richmond still has an alarmingly high rate of violence compared to the national average. According to the CDC, one risk factor for youth violence is poverty in the community. Masho and Sullivan used data they collected previously to determine which neighborhoods to research.

“For this project we have identified three areas where low income housings are located,” Masho said. “The neighborhoods include Gilpin (Court) in the north side, Mosby (Court) and Creighton in the east side and south side we have Bellmeade and Hillside (Court).”

The recent round of funding from the CDC will build on 15 years of previous research conducted through VCU, also funded by the CDC. Masho and Sullivan said the funding should carry them through the next five years of the project.

“Originally, the (research) was looking at more individual level interventions, then it started looking at how do you combine individual level interventions, with maybe like, a family intervention,” Sullivan said. “Now we want a community based intervention that’s going to address things at the community level.”

Masho said she and Sullivan will be working closely with existing coalitions of community groups. Their strategy calls for partnerships with leaders selected by the Youth Violence Prevention Workgroup.

“We will be working with the community in terms of identifying policy issues,” Masho said, “and having those conversations within the community and enhancing the capacity to bring change to those communities.”

Joe Johnson, Staff Writer

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