intro’d via ted..
Physician Gary Slutkin spent a decade fighting tuberculosis, cholera and AIDS epidemics in Africa. When he returned to the United States, he thought he’d escape brutal epidemic deaths. But then he began to look more carefully at gun violence, noting that its spread followed the patterns of infectious diseases. A mind-flipping look at a problem that too many communities have accepted as a given. We’ve reversed the impact of so many diseases, says Slutkin, and we can do the same with violence. (Filmed at TEDMED.)
Could our culture have misdiagnosed violence? As the director of the initiative Cure Violence, Gary Slutkin approaches gunfire on neighborhood streets as a contagious disease, looking to science and public health for strategies to stop it.
Let’s treat violence like a contagious disease
epidemic death has a different feel – full of panic/fear..
children shooting other children with guns
frequently things get stuck and have to be rethought..
there was clustering in the maps of violence.. like clustering in the maps of infectious epidemics
greatest predictor of a case of violence.. a preceding case of violence.. behaving like a contagious disease – spread of violence
good news – ways to reverse epidemics
1. reverse transmission..
detect and find first cases
ie: for tb find who is infecting tv
find someone who is very angry
2. prevent further spread..
ie: find who else has been exposed.. maybe just hanging out.. not spreading right now
3. shifting the norms
community activities remodeled, ie: public ed
[imagine a people experiment hastening the shifting of norms]
how aids epidemic in uganda was reversed.
hired violence interupters – hired from same group – so credibility and trust
trained in persuasion, cooling people down, buying time… reframing… behavior change
good – then the funders said – do it again… now been replicated 20 times – 30 – 70% reductions of shootings and killings
movie made – the interrupters.
but got a lot of opposition.. what do you mean – no bad guys… what do you mean hiring people that have backgrounds.. our whole industry is designed around bad guys
we were able to remove disease without improving the economy..
violence has been responding as a disease
i wasn’t looking to do this.. we just used ideas that were being used before.. just for different things.
Gary is founder and ceo of
july 2015 (video interview w/mayors from baltimore and nola)
he spread of violence, he likes to say, mirrors the spread of Tuberculosis or HIV, and can only be combated by going into the most infected areas and stopping the sickness at its source.
The first part is for people to understand that violence is a health issue rather than an issue of morality, of people being good or bad. Years ago when people contracted the plague, they were thought of as “bad” people. In time, as science developed, society understood that the plague was a virus, contracted through exposure. A person wasn’t bad if they had the plague. They had a virus.
It’s the same thing with violence. Why? Because it’s acquired through transmission, and can be treated in the way we treat all infectious problems. “Curing” means reducing the violence by many levels so it’s a much less prevalent problem. It means “cure” in the community sense.
There are neurons on the brain that cause copying, which is the principle way people pick up all kinds of behavior.
While at first we need to have “interrupters” to help high-risk people off the hook socially, or go against the norms of their community, longer term it requires the expectations of a person’s [peer] group to change, and subconsciously driven behaviors will follow.
The media, without a doubt, has a role in facilitating more events. There is research that shows that fewer headlines can equal fewer incidents and vice versa. The repeated nature of the showing of the event serves to spread or accelerate the transmission of the behavior.
The most responsible journalism would avoid showing photos and videos of graphic violence, and instead be more objective and informative.
oct 2015 – talking/seeking viable solutions after oregon comm college shooting
We stopped seeing these as moralistic issues, and realized that there are invisible things going on, and suddenly we understood it.
from 2015 – let up from 14 to 1 community where cure violence was involved..
how to interrupt the spread..
so.. interrupt.. not cure..?
U of IL System (@UofILSystem) tweeted at 1:20 PM on Tue, Jan 03, 2017:
MT @SouthSideWeekly: Profile of Dr. Slutkin, #UIC epidemiologist, founder of @CureViolence https://t.co/64mtwu3LMkhttps://t.co/tusluonTdw
Let’s treat these mass shootings like the public health crisis that they are — Op ed from @GSlutkin – https://t.co/QkCBfHEepV
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/CureViolence/status/966344947925385216
In the case of violence, community health workers are embedded in communities where violence might take place.
They are trusted by family, friends, and acquaintances of those at risk, so they can help interrupt situations when someone is showing warning signs of being violent. The health sector can reach those at risk of being violent, interrupt any plans for violence, and help at risk persons deal with whatever issues that drive their unhealthy behavior