VCU receives nearly $6 million grant to advance youth violence prevention strategies in Richmond

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently awarded Virginia Commonwealth University a nearly $6 million research grant to promote healthy communities and reduce violence rates in Richmond.

Saba Masho, M.D., Dr.PH.
Saba Masho, M.D., Dr.PH.

The grant resulted from a strong collaboration between community partners and the university. The university will work closely with members of the Richmond community and local organizations to carry out objectives detailed in the five-year grant.

“We will be working with city residents and community partners to improve our capacity to overcome issues that affect the health of youth,” said co-principal investigator Saba Masho, M.D., DrPh, professor of family medicine at VCU School of Medicine.

Masho will partner on the grant with co-principal investigator Terri Sullivan, Ph.D., professor of psychology at VCU College of Humanities and Sciences.

The project continues the work of the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development at VCU, which is one of five national centers of excellence for youth violence prevention funded by the CDC. Clark-Hill’s mission is to empower youth, schools and families to promote the healthy, safe and otherwise positive development of youth from early adolescence through emerging adulthood. The current project builds upon more than 15 years of CDC funding.

Terri Sullivan, Ph.D.
Terri Sullivan, Ph.D.

In 2014, the rate of homicide among young people in Richmond was nearly four times the national average. Activities funded through the grant will seek to reduce incidences of violence in the city by evaluating the impact of evidence-based violence intervention approaches.

University researchers and community partners will work with residents of three neighborhoods in North, East and South Richmond to identify pre-existing programs in each community and build on the strengths of those programs.

“We are informed by community needs and strengths at every juncture,” Sullivan said. “We will rely on community members to help us understand how we can build on existing protective factors. At the end of the five years, we may have communities with differences in programs and prevention efforts based on each community’s current needs.”

The project will include continuous assessment of outcomes through community surveys and various forms of surveillance data. If proven effective, the intervention strategies developed during the five-year grant may advance the science and practice of youth violence prevention. Findings may also inform youth violence prevention strategies in communities beyond Richmond.

“There are so many factors that can cause youth to engage in violence and these behaviors affect the health of entire communities,” said Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “It is imperative that we successfully identify and address the risk factors for violence and provide young people with viable options for the future. Our continued work with VCU is a tremendous opportunity that we welcome and that can have far-reaching benefits.”