Learn About the YVPCs
Following the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, (then) Senators Arlen Specter, R-PA, and Tom Harkin, D-IA, formed a legislative committee on violence prevention to encourage collaboration among federal agencies. The committee recognized that academic institutions provide strong foundations for scientific research and the development of diverse partnerships—two things necessary to encourage new youth violence prevention research and practice, empower communities to act, and increase translation of knowledge into health and community practice. This legislative initiative led to the development of CDC’s National Academic Centers of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention (now called Youth Violence Prevention Centers, or YVPCs).
The mission of the YVPCs is to research and prevent youth violence by identifying and testing innovative violence prevention approaches and to strengthen the use of effective prevention strategies in communities.
YVPCs across the country partner with communities experiencing some of the nation’s highest rates of violence to develop youth violence prevention strategies. Over time, YVPC activities have been guided by the following goals:
- Use effective violence surveillance tools to monitor trends in youth violence
- Partner with community organizations to build capacity to prevent violence
- Conduct interdisciplinary research to rigorously evaluate prevention strategies
- Develop community approaches for youth violence prevention that are scalable and can inform national prevention efforts
Prevention strategies at the community level have the potential to reach more people and may be more cost-effective and sustainable than individual and relationship-level prevention strategies. However, there is a gap in the evidence about effective approaches to reduce community-level risk factors for youth violence. YVPCs are addressing this gap by implementing and evaluating prevention strategies that can have community-level impacts on youth violence. Community-level prevention strategies focus on changing the neighborhood, school, and workplace characteristics that increase or buffer against risk for violence. Some of the community conditions that increase risk for violence include poverty, crowded housing, residential instability, high rates of unemployment, the number and location of alcohol outlets, low civic engagement, and lack of access to services and social support.
Current evaluation efforts focus on the impact of community-level prevention strategies that support healthy development of youth and prevent youth violence. These include building neighborhoods that foster social interaction, strengthen connectedness, increase trust among residents, improve safety, and promote social norms about community pride and positive cultural identity. Additionally, improving community conditions has the benefit of addressing multiple forms of violence beyond youth violence.
The YVPCs research effective violence prevention approaches to promote thriving youth and build safer communities.