National Centers for Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention (YVPCs) 2000-2005
Following the Columbine high school shootings, Senators Specter and Harkin spearheaded a legislative committee on violence prevention that encouraged collaboration among federal agencies such as the National Institute of Mental Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With CDC’s unique focus on primary prevention, this legislation ultimately asked CDC to form the National Academic Centers of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention (ACEs) Program.
The legislative committee and all agencies agreed that what is known about violence prevention should be more readily put into practice. Researchers should not merely collect and analyze data, but also move information out into communities where the knowledge would be of benefit.
In fiscal year 2000, CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control received funding to establish ten National Academic Centers of Excellence on Youth Violence. Awards were made for the creation of Centers that would:
- Build the scientific infrastructure needed to support development and application of effective youth violence interventions;
- Promote interdisciplinary research;
- Foster collaboration between academic researchers and communities; and
- Empower communities to address the problem of youth violence.
From 2000 to 2005, the following 10 research universities received funding:
- Columbia University
- Harvard University
- Johns Hopkins University
- University of Alabama at Birmingham
- University of California, Riverside
- University of California, San Diego
- University of Hawaii at Manoa
- University of Michigan
- University of Puerto Rico
- Virginia Commonwealth University
The overarching goal for the Center was to develop a multi‑disciplinary understanding of youth violence that would inform the development of an integrated multi‑level intervention response. To that end, the Center incorporated risk factor/developmental research projects as well as efficacy/effectiveness research projects. The core activities of the Center set forth a program of research and community engagement activities designed to inform the development of multi‑level interventions with maximum impact. Three projects were central components of the plan, as they spanned both risk factor/developmental and effectiveness/efficacy research and called for studies that would further the field of youth violence prevention and promote the Center’s efforts to build a multi-level community response plan.
The Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center’s theme was Research Partnerships with Communities. The goals of the Center were to advance the science of violence prevention and to partner with community organizations to help reduce youth violence at the local, regional, and national levels. Violence reduction was one component of many broader issues such as injury prevention, community improvement and youth development.
Recognizing that future efforts to eliminate youth violence would require close collaborative relationships among academic institutions, local service providers, policy makers, community leaders and families, and that academic and research-based interventions are frequently viewed with skepticism by community-based providers and planners, the Center adopted the following theme: Science Informing Practice, Practice Questioning Science. This theme summarized the need for researchers to question their ability to translate research into programs that reduce violence in communities and the belief that collaboration with policy makers, services providers, and families is a two-way process.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham, in collaboration with the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, established a Comprehensive Youth Violence Center (CYVC). Guided by an ecological developmental model, the objectives of the CYVC were (1) to utilize the information obtained on risk and protective factors for violent behaviors both from proposed intervention studies and community developmental-epidemiological studies of youth to guide the development and evaluation of new interventions; (2) to expand and strengthen community partnerships within the region; (3) to develop a regional and ultimately Alabama state surveillance system for youth who enter hospital emergency departments; (4) to stimulate faculty development in violence intervention and increase expertise in surveillance and community developmental-epidemiological methods; (5) to train healthcare workers and other practitioners, scientists, educators, and students in the discipline of violence identification, assessment and prevention; (6) to provide technical assistance and disseminate information about youth violence to local, state, regional, and national sources, thereby supporting the nations violence prevention and control agenda; and (7) to promote explicit violence prevention initiatives targeting populations at high risk for violent behaviors.
The goal of this Center was: (1) to improve youth violence preventive interventions by building an integrated theoretical framework that links risk prevention and healthy development; (2) to develop enhanced prevention programs that incorporate themes from this theoretical framework as well as sensitivity to cultural issues; (3) to develop a research agenda that incorporates both efficacy trials of innovative strategies and effectiveness studies in realworld settings; (4) to engage health care providers in violence assessment and referral; (5) to disseminate knowledge about youth violence prevention to researchers, service providers, and policy makers; and (6) to engage the local community in developing a strategic response plan.
The aim of this Center was to empower communities to prevent and address youth violence by linking the research, education, and outreach activities of the university to facilitate communication and collaboration among institutions of higher education, schools, community based agencies, as well as governmental agencies. The Center worked with established community coalitions such as Mid‑City for Youth, Social Advocates for Youth, and others to develop, implement, and otherwise support plans to prevent youth violence.
To address concerns of youth violence for Asian/Pacific Islander populations, a comprehensive approach was needed. The University of Hawaii at Manoa established the Asian/Pacific-Islander Youth Violence Prevention Center, a joint effort between the National Council on Crime & Delinquency (NCCD) in Oakland, California and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The Flint Youth Violence Prevention Center developed, implemented, and monitored comprehensive strategies that helped prevent youth violence and promote healthy development through collaboration among community, university, and health department partners in ways that focused on interdisciplinary, ecological, and culturally relevant community-based approaches.
The specific aims of this Center included the creation of a culturally sensitive Hispanic youth violence research, education, and community outreach framework, the establishment of an academic network of Hispanic-serving institutions for this purpose, and the development of a strategic plan for a school-based community response to youth violence among Hispanic youth. The Center’s mission was to contribute knowledge for the prevention of youth violence among Hispanic youth that can be used in establishing circles of positive influence to protect youngsters, their families, and communities from the physical, mental, and social maladies that stem from violence.
The purpose of this Center was to support the development of an interdisciplinary, scientific infrastructure, and coordination mechanisms needed to synthesize the many community/academic partnerships already occurring, and those possible in the future, to systematically reduce the prevalence and impact of youth violence as well as to provide regional and national collaboration and dissemination on urban efforts in youth violence prevention.