BONUS BLOG: Violence as a Public Health Issue

Violence--Monster Under Bed

Violence as a Public Health Issue

Shelby County Health Department Joins Forces to Fight the Real Monster under the Bed

By: Angela P. Moore

Community Health Planner, Shelby County Health Department

Like many children, you may have been afraid of the “monster” under the bed. Your parents would make you look under the bed to find that nothing was there and that would ease your fears so you could fall soundly asleep.

Violence is no imaginary monster but a very real menace to you and your child’s safety and development. It is more than a “police problem” but a public health risk, and those who are perpetrators, victims, and/or witnesses may experience the side-effects from this risk. Juanita White from the Binghampton Development Corporation painted a great picture of how violence affects us physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially in the latest post on the IMRI blog. Because of these effects, we cannot shy away from this issue but collectively address it.

In 2013, the Shelby County Health Department began a community-driven process called Mobilizing Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP) developed by the National Association of County and City Health Officials and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Within this process, the health department and its community partners compiled community health information and collected input from ~2000 community residents. As a result, one key health issue for the county that community residents and organizations identified was Violence as a Public Health Issue. Below are a few facts from the effort:

  •  Community residents ranked violence as the 5th most important health issue out of 18 topics.
  •   67% of community residents felt that both crime and violence were “major problems” in their community.
  •  58% of community residents felt that their community was an unsafe place to live.
  • The violent crime was higher in Shelby County than Tennessee and the 2013 national standard.
  •  Domestic Violence was higher in Shelby County than in Tennessee.

After the selection of Violence as a Public Health Issue as a priority for the county, community partners began meeting in January 2015 to align existing work and build upon partnerships and initiatives centered around Youth Violence and Youth Safety. The result of this partnership will be published within the Shelby County Community Health Improvement Plan to be released in the coming months.

To supplement the great work that community partners are doing across the county, Shelby County Health Department also receives Training and Technical Assistance from American Institutes and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health department is one of only 12 sites participating in this initiative across the nation to enhance existing Youth Violence Prevention coalitions and develop an even more comprehensive community-involved plan.

Addressing violence prevention is no easy task; however, as we as a community continue to increase collaboration, communication, and coordination, we will face the real monster under the bed so your child rests easy.

For more information on the Community Health Improvement Plan and next steps in Shelby County Health Department Youth Violence Training and Technical Assistance Initiative, please contact Angela Moore at


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