• Article
  • November 9, 2016

How One Children's Hospital Found its Role in Preventing Community Violence

Lurie Children's Hospital leads a violence prevention collaborative that engages stakeholders across Chicago.

A violence prevention collaborative assembled by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago is connecting more than 4,500 stakeholders across the city to work toward violence prevention policy, and systems and environmental change. Strengthening Chicago's Youth (SCY) serves as a connector among Chicago's violence prevention partners and has become influential in violence prevention policy and advocacy.

The organization builds capacity among public and private stakeholders to connect, collaborate and mobilize. "At the core is our role as a neutral and respected convener," says Kelli Day, operations manager at the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Lurie Children's. Children's hospitals, as neutral, well-respected advocates for child health are positioned to guide coalition building. This respect results in access to community partners and builds credibility across sectors.

At the 2016 Annual Leadership Conference, Day outlined the steps Lurie Children's has taken to form a coalition to help reduce violence in Chicago. It started in 2009 when a young man was brutally beaten to death outside of his Chicago high school, and the tragedy brought national attention to youth violence in the city. "This is not the kind of attention Chicago wants, but it raised awareness of a big issue," Day says.

The incident also raised awareness within Lurie Children's, and it deeply troubled CEO Pat Magoon. He wanted to understand what the hospital was doing to address violence in the city. He also wanted to learn what a children's hospital could do and what its role is in preventing community violence. To learn more, he convened a task-force to examine the issue.

Two main themes emerged: There was a lot of good work already going on at a community-linked mental health services program and Chicago youth programs. Both are focused in the community, well outside the hospital's walls. While there were positive steps, there was little coordination between efforts. "The task-force speculated these laudable but disconnected efforts could be a microcosm of violence prevention work across Chicago," Day says.

Lurie Children's could not address this issue in isolation—the hospital could be a leader in this work, but could not do it alone. So in 2011, the hospital hosted listening sessions with stakeholders from across nonprofit, health care, policy, philanthropic and research sectors. These key leaders helped define the violence prevention collaborative.

Today, SCY takes a public health approach to violence prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control's Veto Violence campaign, there are three key features to this approach: 

  1. Consistent messaging about preventability of violence
  2. Evidence-based violence prevention strategies and data-driven innovation
  3. Multi-sector collaboration—this work can't happen in isolation or in silos if we want to move the needle forward in prevention and reduction of violence. 
"The public health framework works across different types of violence and includes a developmental approach," Day says. "It would be a sign of success for us if we could see that less people were impacted, injured or killed by violence."

Day says the key is to remember this work can't be accomplished by one person. "But by working together, sharing resources and improving access across sectors, we can begin to build resilience in our youth and help each of our young people reach his or her potential."

For more, view the slides (members only) from Lurie Children's presentation at the 2016 Annual Leadership Conference.