Houston Health Department

Mayor Turner, Houston Health Department Addressing Root Causes of Youth Violence


April 8, 2019

HOUSTON — The City of Houston is taking a public health approach to addressing youth violence, Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston Health Department announced today. Houston Peace – Youth Violence Prevention Strategic Plan aims to address the root causes of violence and promote opportunities for prevention.

"Youth violence, including teen dating violence, gang-related violence, structural violence, and gun violence has a tremendous impression on our society, impacting the victim, the offenders, the witnesses, and the community," Mayor Turner said. “Houston Peace reviews the current state of youth violence and identifies areas where it is most impactful. The plan also explores various ways to prevent violence at the individual, community, and societal levels.”

Houston Peace leverages the support of private, philanthropic, faith-based, school, and other stakeholders with existing city resources to identify and implement interventions that promote positive attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that prevent violence.

“The public health approach has been used successfully to make cars safer through promoting seat belts, adding fluoride to drinking water to prevent dental cavities, and promoting vaccinations to prevent the spread of preventable diseases,” Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health Department said. ‘We’ll be using this approach to prevent youth violence.”

The plan contains three approaches to ensure youth in Houston are safe, healthy, and have hope for the future:

  1. Prevent Youth Violence - Youth violence is a significant problem for Houston. It’s also a problem that can have a long-lasting impact. This goal acknowledges that there is a need to successfully address violence beyond prevention and incorporates intervention and re-entry components. Perhaps most impactfully, this goal champions the need for collaboration to ensure successful and comprehensive violence prevention efforts.
  2. Promote Youth Health – Youth are in a critical period of rapid biological and socio-emotional development in which they gain independence, take risks, and form behaviors that carry into adulthood. This goal is intended to provide youth with opportunities to form healthy behaviors surrounding their physical, mental, and behavioral health choices. Like the previous goal, this goal also supports comprehensive and collaborative efforts. While health professionals can serve as a great resource for helping address the health needs of adolescents, numerous other stakeholders and partners can also support this work.
  3. Provide Youth Opportunities – Providing youth with opportunities can drastically alter the path of youth. It can help reduce their likelihood of engaging in violence, provide them with workforce training opportunities, and enhance their likelihood to complete secondary education. Strategies in this goal focus on providing youth in communities with a high prevalence of youth violence with equitable opportunities. These opportunities allow for youth to develop and increase protective factors at various levels.

Throughout the development of Houston Peace, the health department worked with community members, partner organizations and stakeholders to discuss what needs to be done to prevent youth violence. Focus groups were also conducted with community youth.

Houston Peace is intended to undergo changes based on community needs, feedback, data and capacity.

View the plan at 4youthvoice.org.