Preventing gun violence

    A community health worker from Temple University Hospital receives a national honor Wednesday for his work to prevent gun violence in Philadelphia.

    A community health worker from Temple University Hospital receives a national honor Wednesday for his work to prevent gun violence in Philadelphia.

    Photo © 2007 Todd Vachon

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    Scott Charles created the hospital’s Cradle to Grave initiative which walks young people through the experience of a 16-year-old gun shot victim. Teens learn there’s nothing glamorous about being shot 14 times. It’s sometimes called a “scared straight” program, but Charles says that’s not quite right.

    Charles: When you are a kid growing up in north Philadelphia in a tough neighborhood, you’ve probably seen enough to keep you from being scared by a two-hour presentation. What we are trying to do is compel them by schooling them straight.

    He says Philadelphia gun violence is having a tremendous mental health impact. About 80 percent of gun shot victims in the city survive. Charles says the stream of wounded men returning to their neighborhoods is similar to the injured troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Charles: They are not being furloughed home to the middle part of the country. They are going right back to where the battle is happening. And this time, they’re going back and they’re suffering from post-traumatic stress; they are hurting, they are angry.

    The honor from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognizes that public health problems need an academic response and community action. Of the 10 national winners, Charles is the only Pennsylvania honoree. He receives a $20,000 prize. One hundred five thousand dollars goes to Temple to evaluate the program and determine if it’s changing behavior and attitudes among young people.

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