Strong neighborhood ties can help protect a community from gun violence, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program (RWJF CSP).
“Violence results in chronic community-level trauma and stress, and undermines health, capacity, and productivity in these neighborhoods,” said lead author Emily Wang, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine.
“Police and government response to the problem has focused on the victim or the criminal. Our study focuses on empowering communities to combat the effects of living with chronic and persistent gun violence.”
The researchers, who presented their findings at the Institute of Medicine’s Means of Violence workshop, studied neighborhoods in New Haven, Conn., with high crime statistics.
They trained 17 community members in two neighborhoods to gather data from about 300 of their own neighbors. This community-based participatory research, conducted during the summer of 2014, helped to build local engagement within these neighborhoods.
More than one-half of all neighbors surveyed knew none or only a few of their neighbors. Almost all of the study participants had heard a gunshot, two-thirds of them had a friend or family member hurt by a violent act, and nearly 60 percent had a friend or family member killed.
According to Ann Greene, community research liaison for the RWJF CSP at Yale and chair of the West River Community Resilience Team, “Our study is a community-based and community-driven intervention to prevent and reduce the negative effects of gun violence in the communities affected by high rates of gun violence by strengthening social ties, bonds, resilience, or in other words, by ‘putting neighbor back in ‘hood.'”
Wang said preliminary findings show that social bonds between neighbors are inversely associated with exposure to gun violence, and that a multi-sector approach that includes community members is required to address and prevent gun violence.
“Disaster preparedness principles like community resilience can be used to improve a community’s ability to band together and use resources to respond to, withstand, recover from, and even grow from bad events,” said Wang.
“Core components of these principles include social and economic well-being, physical and psychological health, effective risk communication, social connectedness, and integration with organizations.”
The neighborhood team leaders are still working with the Yale researchers to explore ways to strengthen community social ties. The plan is to partner with other organizations and city leaders to strategically implement ideas suggested by community members on ways to improve neighborhoods.
Source: Yale University