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Violence Prevention and Control
Research and Programmatic Efforts in Minnesota:
The Next Step

DISCUSSION

Study findings support previous literature revealing the scarcity of program evaluation efforts and the need for research that enables identification of the magnitude of the problem and associated risk factors that can serve as the basis for development of efficacious interventions (Mercy et al., 1993). Relatively few groups surveyed were currently involved in research. Perceptions of what constituted "research" varied, and although the majority of research efforts involved methods that were limited, they serve as an impetus for further research.

In addition to the need to focus attention on methodological issues, study findings suggest that community interest exists for all issues pertaining to violence prevention and control. Thus, investigators can address almost any violence issue, e.g., domestic, school, community-wide, or workplace violence, and be assured of addressing a relevant issue for this state. The only apparent weakness in populations served is the relatively limited focus of research and programmatic efforts on perpetrators, as opposed to victims of violence. While an ethical imperative exists to prevent or mitigate the damaging effects of violence on victims, society ultimately needs to identify more effective ways to prevent the perpetrators from engaging in violent acts.

The findings suggesting that there was a greater emphasis on primary and secondary prevention, as opposed to tertiary prevention, was surprising and the opposite of what was anticipated. However, examination of services offered by programs providing only primary prevention services suggested that public education is the major form of primary prevention currently in use. This may be due to the relative low cost and non-invasive nature of educational programs. However, questions exist about the efficacy of educational efforts as a means of preventing and controlling violence (Webster, 1993). Such efforts require long term evaluation to ensure that resources are well spent.

The study results also suggested the need for a cadre of interdisciplinary experts on violence prevention and control that would collaborate across institutions to support community-wide research efforts. Specifically such a group could:

  • Educate the violence prevention community about the importance of quality research.
  • Educate the violence prevention community on the methods to conduct quality research
  • Educate the violence prevention community about the appropriate use of research results in applied settings.

In concert with implementation of the needs assessment described, a major collaborative effort among multiple disciplines through the Center for Violence Prevention and Control was initiated at the University of Minnesota, with support from the University's Graduate School. This effort included individuals with expertise in public health, epidemiology, law, psychology, sociology, social work, public policy, and human ecology. The purpose of this Center is to promote collaborative research among faculty and graduate students and to enhance graduate education. One of the first products of this collaboration has been the development of a course directory of all apparent graduate education courses in violence prevention and control that will serve as the basis for graduate education opportunities. Development of a relevant curriculum is in progress.

In addition to the development of this Center, an academic-community partnership was created to support research efforts in violence prevention and control. This partnership addressed many of the recommendations from the needs assessment. A University faculty member, and a community medical provider, both with expertise in violence prevention and control, obtained funding from The Allina Foundation that enabled the provision of technical support on research methods to six investigators; these investigators were funded to conduct research projects on community-based violence prevention in collaboration with local organizations (e.g., University of Minnesota faculty in Environmental and Occupational Health and Health Economics working with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry on a study designed to estimate the lifetime costs of occupational assaults). Additionally, public seminars featuring nationally known experts that were designed to promote understanding about the importance and need for research, were provided to the community on topics including: the epidemiology of violence; the cost of violence; program evaluation and violence prevention; and firearm injuries. These seminars provided a forum for educating the community about the current limitations in violence-related research and the methods for conducting such research.

The design and implementation of policies and programs that will effectively stem the current epidemic of violence in the United States is a formidable challenge. A sustained and coordinated effort to prevent violence will be necessary at all levels of society to address this complex and deeply rooted problem. Academicians can contribute to the process by joining with community groups to assess their needs for expert research assistance in designing essential surveillance and analytical efforts and in evaluating intervention efforts and therapeutic services. This process will enable academicians to create a research agenda that is uniquely relevant to their community and will encourage cooperation from the various organizations sponsoring these activities. Broad constituencies are needed to support violence prevention and control efforts. The more integral academicians are to the violence prevention and control community, the easier it will be to identify and share information regarding effective programs and polices. Such partnerships hold promise in addressing the need for new solutions to the problem of violence.


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