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53 Local health departments as backbone organisations for violence prevention activities: opportunities for bridging research and practice
  1. Chris Gunther
  1. New Orleans Health Department, USA


Educational objectives 1) Outline the principles of collective impact. 2) Describe efforts to prevent violence in New Orleans, Louisiana. 3) Discuss implications of the collective impact approach to preventing violence for researchers. 4) Identify opportunities for research-practice partnerships to prevent violence.

Format/methods of participant interaction This topic symposium will feature a multimedia presentation on the topics outlined below, to be followed by facilitated discussion amongst symposium participants. Participant interaction will include facilitated whole group discussion, small group discussion, and individual work time.

Session description Violence is a leading cause of injury, disability, and death and is a significant health disparity. Since 1979, New Orleans’ annual murder rate has consistently been seven to eight times higher than the national average. In New Orleans, 93% of all murder victims are African American. Furthermore, violence increases risk for a multitude of health and social problems and compounds disparities in chronic disease. A local health department led the development of a strategic plan to prevent youth violence in New Orleans. Based on stakeholder input, the local health department adopted a collective impact approach to address the issue of youth violence. Collective impact requires the following elements: 1) A common agenda 2) Shared measurement systems 3) Mutually reinforcing activities 4) Continuous communication 5) Backbone support organisations In New Orleans, a local health department is the backbone organisation for youth violence prevention. In this role, the local health department provides dedicated staff to convene partners, coordinate youth violence prevention activities, and collect data to evaluate the impact and communicate the results of youth violence prevention strategies. Local health departments are well-placed to play this role for the following reasons:

  • Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of public health, local health departments have considerable experience as convening and coordinating agencies.

  • The tools of public health that are used by local health departments emphasise prevention provide a framework for monitoring, evaluation, and communication.

  • Local health departments are integrated within local governance structures, either as a part of municipal government or as a free-standing municipal board or commission. Because of their ability to sustain cross-sector partnerships, emphasis on prevention, capacity for data collection, and integration within local governance structures, local health departments are uniquely situated to serve as backbone organisations for violence prevention activities. This topic symposium will describe allow for an in-depth exploration of these issues, with specific consideration given to the implications for researchers. At the end of the session, participants will have an opportunity to identify opportunities for partnership with practitioners in their own community.

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