It’s been a busy year for Health Forward and our grantees. Before we bid farewell to an eventful year, our Health Forward associates take a look back at significant events and projects that helped make 2012 a productive year.
On day six of our year in review, Health Forward Program Officer Andres Dominguez writes about Aim4Peace, a program that seeks to reduce violence and homicide.
A goal of the non-profit sector is to improve the quality of life for those in need. As a program officer, I see the barriers, the obstacles, the inadequate public policies and the finite resources. I see first-hand the effects of underperforming schools, disinvestment and so many other social determinants that complicate the health of families.
In Kansas City, we presently stand at 102 homicides, 102 too many. The numbers are a wakeup call to civic leadership that we as a community have not done enough to stem the flow of violence. As a Foundation, we have agencies that are on the front line dealing with violence. They see the ugly side to humanity: domestic violence, child abuse and homicide.
When I am asked about our Foundation’s anti-crime and violence prevention strategies, people are curious about impact. Through our grants and special initiatives, we work to tackle this subject. Last week our Board approved an additional year of funding for Aim4Peace, an evidence-based health approach to reduce violence and homicides. The program uses trained violence interrupters, outreach staff, public education campaigns, Neighborhood Action Teams and community mobilization to reverse the violence epidemic in Kansas City, Mo. Anti-violence programs are expensive but the cost of doing nothing is even more costly.
Researchers at Iowa State University, led by sociologist Matt DeLisi, examined the direct costs of violence — damaged property, lost careers, prison upkeep, lawyer fees, more frequent police patrols, more complicated alarm systems, and more expensive life-insurance plans — and found that the cost for every aggravated assault amounted to $145,379. When there is murder, DeLisi put the price tag at a shocking, $17,252,656. According to the FBI, murder cost the United States almost $263 billion in 2009. According to a new report published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, violence costs the economy at least $460 billion in 2010, through a combination of lost productivity and direct costs.
We live in a violent society. In Connecticut, the loss of 20 first graders hits us with such pain and agony. The loss of 102 lives, hits many in Kansas City with equal force. The easy access and availability of guns and assault rifles calls for a comprehensive public policy that along with philanthropy will change the outcomes for families. Public policy failures force philanthropy to raise the bar, to challenge systems and to address unmet needs.
Fortunately, we have organizations in our service area that have developed strategies that are saving lives. Tracie McClendon-Cole, Justice Program Coordinator with Aim4Peace, shared with me that, “We must be willing to change the culture, we don’t solve problems by bullets or violence. We solve problems by talking and communicating, despite our social and financial hardships. It begins by changing the culture FROM: it is cool to be about violence, self-hatred and promoting oneself; TO: it is cool to rock education, love and peace in our communities.”
As for grant impact, if my grant work prevented one death, helped one family from being destroyed, then it was effective. A program officer’s grant work is not just about the present, it’s about the future of children and their children. In 10, 20, 30 years when the next generation reaps the benefits of philanthropic investment, we will see the impact.