The Carter Center's initiative to reduce deaths and injuries of children by firearms will take a significant step forward April 1 with the beginning of a three-year demonstration project at Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital, part of the Grady Health System.
The designation of Hughes Spalding as a demonstration site is the latest step in advancing Not Even One (NEO), a program announced by The Carter Center in 1994 to address the epidemic of violence against children via guns. Emory, Grady Hospital and the Morehouse School of Medicine are serving as partners in the project with Hughes Spalding.
Curbing gun violence
The purpose of the Atlanta demonstration project, as well as two others that are already up and running in Long Beach/Compton, Calif., and Albuquerque/Santa Fe, N.M., is to gather detailed data on the circumstances surrounding the injuries and deaths of children caused by firearms, to analyze the data to identify significant trends and to produce recommendations on changing policy and behavior in an effort to reduce gun deaths and injuries.
In addition to changing parental behavior regarding gun storage and communicating with children about the danger of firearms, NEO also will seek to prompt more concrete actions, such as large shrubbery being cut back at a MARTA station following a violent incident.
Wallace (Woody) Woodard, newly appointed NEO director, said that Hughes Spalding emerged as the ideal demonstration site for the project because of its strong ties with the Atlanta community and the local higher education community (through Grady Hospital's relationship with Emory and the Morehouse School of Medicine), and its role in providing public health services.
"One of the things that we are fully aware of," said Woodard, "is that by virtue of Grady's location, if you put together a pin map of where children are being hurt or killed by firearms, the hospital is right in the middle of that."
Woodard's strategy for gathering the needed data hinges on the creation of Community Action Teams (CATs), which are already operating successfully at the California and New Mexico sites. Woodard said the CATs include professionals from the areas of health services, law enforcement, education, social work and psychology, as well as significant numbers of community residents.
"We are also looking at having students involved in the CATs," said Woodard. "We want to collect as much information as possible on children who are injured and killed. If we leave children out of the process, we are leaving out a very important part. Initially it wasn't even mentioned that children could serve on CATs, but now I'm asking that we have at least one child on every CAT."
In addition to involving local public school students, Woodard also wants to involve as many Emory students and faculty as possible. One faculty member already involved is sociology professor Robert Agnew, who has served this year as one of the first Carter Center faculty liaisons, a program initiated last fall to forge stronger ties between the theoretical, scholarly work of the faculty and the practical, applied work of The Carter Center.
Agnew said one of his graduate students has been assisting NEO with research work and he hopes to expand that component by bringing in even more graduate students to help in a research capacity. "I think this will be an extremely valuable experience for the graduate students," said Agnew. "We want them to learn how to apply their research in the policy arena, and programs like Not Even One help them to do that."
In addition to being able to apply their research to a specific project, Agnew said that graduate students involved with NEO also will be able to see how their work has an impact on people's lives. He said there also may be opportunities for undergraduates to serve in internship and/or research roles.
Another Emory faculty member playing an active role in NEO is Barbara Pettitt, head of pediatric surgery at Grady and a professor in the Rollins School of Public Health. Woodard expects Pettitt's knowledge of how gun violence affects children to be invaluable to the project.
For the long term, Woodard said that once the three-year demonstration projects have been completed and the data have been analyzed, the results will be presented to policymakers and systems administrators in communities who are interested in starting their own NEO programs. At that point, the core NEO staff at The Carter Center will shift their focus to assisting communities with technical or other support.
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