Sometimes you need to hear beyond the usual voices to find the source of a solution.
I saw this in action last month at the CityMatCH Conference. Deborah Allen, the Director of Child, Adolescent and Family Health at Boston Public Health Commission, and her colleagues and I presented on a panel with the topic of “Building a Trauma-Informed Community – A Public-Private Collaboration.” We spoke about the work of the Youth Violence Prevention (YVP) Funder Learning Collaborative, a program implemented by Root Cause on behalf of 75 Boston-area grantmakers and content experts committed to improving the life outcomes of young adults (ages 11-24) in the Boston communities most affected by youth violence. What attracted the Collaborative to attend this conference in Salt Lake City and talk to 200 MCH-focused public health professionals from around the country? Usually, we would not consider this conference to align with our focus population. However, CityMatCH forms a link between the health of urban women and it's effect on families and communities as a whole.
We were there because the Collaborative actively tries to incorporate as many viewpoints as possible into the conversation. Our partnerships with both private and public organizations, such as the Health Commission, continue to expand and enrich our viewpoint on youth violence.
The Collaborative already takes a public health approach to youth violence prevention. This conference took our knowledge a step further, reinforcing that maternal and child health is central to our work.
Despite the fact that the Collaborative’s efforts are largely focused on young people from ages 11-24, the impact of violence on a mother and infant always must be top of mind. Improving the well-being of mothers, infants, and children is an important public health goal that we can use as a guide to expand our thinking on issues of youth violence. Fundamental to the Collaborative is what we are learning from each other.
We’ve looked at the evidence, and it’s all there:
- The adverse health effects of living with violence and racism start early and can be directly traced to maternal health and life experiences.
- We see the same racial disparities in the juvenile justice system as in infant mortality.1
- The Office of Minority Health finds that African Americans have 2.2 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites and are 3.5 times as likely to die as infants due to complications such as low birthweight.
- Studies have concluded that there are disproportions among minority youth in all stages of the juvenile justice system.2
Collaboration builds relationships and breaks down silos between public and private funding, which will get us closer to our shared goal. At the CityMatCH Conference, I was inspired by the nurses, doctors, public health professionals, and funders working directly to improve these odds in maternal health. I came away even more resolved to incorporate wide-ranging perspectives into our understanding of the issue of youth violence.
CityMATCH offered a terrific reminder: keep your eyes and ears open, because everyone can—and might need to be—part of the solution.
To find out more about CityMatCh's most recent work with adolescents, please visit the Adolescent Futures Initiatives site.