A physician, an epidemiologist, and an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Gary Slutkin spent more than a decade fighting tuberculosis, cholera and HIV/AIDS in Africa and Asia. After years abroad, Slutkin returned to the United States and realized that there was another epidemic spreading like an infectious disease, moving from person to person, delivering grave harm to individuals and communities. That epidemic was violence.
Slutkin’s premise is that the best way to fight the epidemic of violence is to treat its spread as one would that of a viral pathogen to stop it, before it’s too late.
As founder and executive director of Cure Violence, a scientifically-proven, public health approach to violence reduction that uses disease control and behaviour change methods, Slutkin applies his expertise in the transmission and prevention of infectious diseases to reduce the incidence of violence. The Cure Violence method is being applied in 15 U.S. cities and in countries on three continents, including programs in the United Kingdom, Trinidad, South Africa and Iraq. He highlights three approaches used to reverse the transmission of violence: 1) detecting and interrupting conflicts, 2) identifying and treating high risk individuals and 3) changing social norms surrounding violence.
Cure Violence’s model has been statistically demonstrated to reduce shootings and killings by 41 to 73 percent in two independently-funded and performed studies—one by the U.S. Department of Justice, and the other by Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is endorsed by the Institute of Medicine, the National League of Cities, the National Governors Association and the White House.
By training outreach workers or “violence interrupters” and actively engaging community leaders and members, the implementation components of the model include data and monitoring as a catalyst to identifying and preventing conflicts in communities. Many times, violence interrupters will follow up with communities that have quelled violence to make sure that it does not ignite once again. An award-winning documentary, “The Interrupters,” features Cure Violence workers as they protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. It tracks the early days of Cure Violence, which was founded by Slutkin at the University of Illinois’ Chicago School of Public Health.
Slutkin’s ongoing work to recognize and treat violence as a public health issue gives the world a hopeful solution to end its spread.