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Violence Prevention Research Program

Violence Prevention Research Program

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Program Overview

The UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) is a multi-disciplinary program of research and policy development focused on the causes, consequences, and prevention of violence. We place a particular focus on firearm violence, and on the connections between violence, substance abuse and mental illness.

We helped develop the public health approach to violence in the 1980s, and we apply that approach to everything we do. Our mission is to develop and disseminate the research evidence on which informed policy and practice are based. We take a hemispheric approach to research and prevention, focusing on areas that face the highest burden from violence.

Violence is among America’s most important health problems, and firearm violence has been described by the Institute of Medicine as “a serious threat to the safety and welfare of the American public.” Over the last 10 years, the number of American civilians dying from gunshot wounds has exceeded American combat fatalities in World War II. Today, firearm violence kills nearly as many people each year as motor vehicle crashes do, and many more suffer serious physical or psychological injuries. Fear of violence alters the patterns of life in entire communities.

Our program of research on firearm violence is internationally recognized as among the best of its kind. We are now expanding in size and scope, adding new areas of emphasis in alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness, and the social factors that determine risk for violence, substance abuse, and mental illness.

VPRP’s director is Garen Wintemute, MD, MPH, an emergency physician and one of the nation’s leading firearm violence researchers and policy experts. Wintemute is the first Susan P. Baker-Stephen P. Teret Char in Violence Prevention at UC Davis Health System. This endowed chair honors health policy professors Susan P. Baker and Stephen Teret for their lifelong dedication to violence prevention and research and for serving as the national role model.

VPRP’s associate director is Magdalena Cerdá, DrPH, an internationally known social epidemiologist with special expertise in violence and substance abuse research. Cerdá is an associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and is the Vice Chancellor’s Chair in Violence Prevention. This endowed chair recognizes excellence in violence research, specifically integrated approaches from social and psychiatric epidemiology that examine how social contexts shape violent behavior, substance use and common forms of mental illness.

Our program of research focuses on three main areas:

  • understanding current and emerging forms of violence and their links to substance abuse and mental illness
  • identifying the individual and social determinants of risk for violence and associated health problems (e.g., substance abuse and mental illness)
  • evaluating policies and programs that seek to reduce violence.

Violence is complex and cannot be understood from a single point of view. Our research colleagues include representatives from medicine, epidemiology, criminology, public health, economics, statistics and the law. They work at leading universities from across the nation, including Stanford, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Rutgers, Northeastern, Duke and the University of Chicago.

VPRP works to translate scientific evidence into improved prevention policy through technical assistance to federal, state, and local policy makers and agencies. We work actively to disseminate new knowledge regarding violence and its prevention through assistance to the media, directed policy briefs, and our website: