May 8, 2012: Youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) than soldiers, according to Howard Spivak M.D., at left, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention, who presented research showing that children are essentially “living in combat zones” at a Congressional briefing held April 27, 2012, in Washington D.C.
Michael Karpman reported on the briefing sponsored by the Congressional Tri-Caucus and the Prevention Institute’s Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) in the blog CitiesSpeak.org for the National League of Cities (NLC).
Among other findings shared at the briefing were:
- Children’s exposure to violence not only has serious mental health consequences, but is also linked with a range of chronic illnesses, including heart and lung diseases and diabetes. Neuroscientists have found that this type of trauma changes how chromosomes form, hinders brain development, and may shorten a person’s life expectancy by 7-10 years.
- The 2009 National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence – conducted as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Defending Childhood Initiative – found that 60% of children were exposed to violence within the previous year.
- Homicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24. In many cities, it is the leading cause (e.g., San Francisco).
... some cities are making substantial progress in reducing youth violence... by redefining violence as an issue of public health...treating and combating violence as a preventable disease.
The perception of violence as both a criminal justice issue and a public health epidemic appears to be spreading...
Since 2007, thirteen cities in California (Fresno, Los Angeles (San Fernando Valley), Oakland, Oxnard, Richmond, Sacramento, Salinas, San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and Stockton) have developed comprehensive gang prevention action plans as part of their participation in the California Cities Gang Prevention Network, an initiative sponsored by NLC and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (based in Oakland).
Written for California's Children By Elizabeth J Carlyle.