Turning great ideas into healthier communities

Issue Areas

Violence Prevention

As an organization working to promote the health and well-being of all people, the Public Health Institute recognizes the tremendous threat that all forms of violence pose to achieving healthy, thriving communities. Violence and perceptions of violence negatively impact individual lives, but also the entire health of a community—limiting physical activity opportunities at parks and other public spaces, contributing to a lack of jobs and economic opportunities, creating barriers to education, participation in public policy discussions, and even preventing access to healthy food, drinkable water, and quality health care.

The Public Health Institute believes that violence is a public health problem, and must be met with a comprehensive public health solution. We have experience developing and advancing community-based violence prevention strategies, including those that address intimate partner violence, domestic violence, and gun violence, often in low-resource settings. We have contributed to the growing body of research demonstrating the connections between violence and public health, and track state, national, and international policy reforms to reduce violence. We have also worked with community residents, local leaders, elected officials, and the business community to develop and implement on-the-ground violence prevention solutions, both in the U.S. and globally.

Our expertise includes:

  • Program management: Our experts are well-versed in the latest best practices for creating healthy, safe communities that are free from violence. We are available to help you implement comprehensive prevention strategies, at the local to global levels. 
  • Leadership program development and implementation: PHI experts launch and sustain programs that equip community members with the skills they need to become health advocates, with an emphasis on violence prevention. We have extensive experience developing world-renowned leadership programs for women, youth, low-income populations, and communities of color. 
  • Trainings and technical assistance: We offer trainings to support your violence prevention efforts, including: building coalitions to prevent violence; harnessing the media to advance public health solutions, and; utilizing the power of policy to make tangible impacts. We are also available for ongoing consultation and technical support.
  • Policy development and advocacy: PHI staff has helped to champion powerful violence prevention policies in countries across the world. Together, we can work with you to devise and advance research-backed policies to stem violence.


Resources and Tools

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Alison Chopel

Alison Chopel is director of the California Adolescent Health Collaborative. In this role she works to improve the health and well-being of Califor...

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Lori Dorfman

Lori Dorfman, DrPH, directs Berkeley Media Studies Group, which works with community groups, journalists and public health professionals to use the...

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Thomas Greenfield

Tom Greenfield is scientific director of PHI's Alcohol Research Group (ARG). He also directs ARG's National Alcohol Research Center, which ...

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Elaine Zahnd

Elaine Zahnd, PhD, is a sociologist and senior research scientist at PHI. Zahnd has conducted health policy-related research and evaluations for ov...

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California Center for Research on Women and Families
(PHI program 2000-2016)

The California Center for Research on Women and Families (CCRWF), established in November 2000, was the sponsor of the California Working Families ...

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Dialogue4Health (D4H), a project of PHI, is a community that conceives, builds and shares strategies to improve the public's health. D4H p...

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Here's How We're Making a Difference

Giving Health Advocates the Tools to Talk About Childhood Trauma

Giving Health Advocates the Tools to Talk About Childhood TraumaAdverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a critical public health issue with implications for every sector of society, but communicating about them can be challenging. In 2017, PHI's Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) partnered with Kidsdata.org and ACEsConnection to provide a joint training for Northern California advocates to help improve their ability to understand science on ACEs, identify locally-relevant ACEs data, and develop compelling messages about their work. Participants hailed from various government departments and other sectors, including, First 5 and local public health depts, county offices of education, and other agencies.

Upon completion of the training, 73% of participants reported that their ability to use data to make their case was either “advanced” or “intermediate/advanced” compared to just 38% from before. One participant shared: “My messaging will be more on point, and I'll be a little better prepared to pivot conversations that might otherwise be derailed.” Advocates from Northern California also remain engaged in efforts to convince decision-makers to invest greater resources in collecting data on ACES and expanding the trauma-informed resources available, through the creation of tailored fact sheets and meeting directly with local elected officials.

Looking for tips on how to communicate effectively with policymakers about ACES? Read BMSG's recent blog post.

Identifying the Prevalence of ACEs

PHI’s Survey Research Group conducted a survey of nearly 28,000 California residents, leading to shocking revelations that one out of five California adults with children living in their homes were beaten, kicked or physically abused when they were children, and one in ten were sexually abused. This data has fed into a larger campaign for public health organizations around the country to begin treating the long-lasting effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as an urgent public health crisis. 

Using the data, PHI, LiveStories, and The Center for Youth Wellness created an interactive data tool that displays county and state-wide data about the pervasiveness of ACEs alongside resources and words of wisdom from thought leaders. Facilitated by PHI’s new data and persuasive storytelling, the field is shifting its understanding of how to treat and understand the generational effects of trauma and events experienced in childhood.

Learn more by viewing the interactive data story.

Preventing Community Violence by Changing the Media’s Discourse

We must change how we talk about community violence in order to ensure community safety. In conjunction with Prevention Institute, community leaders and violence prevention advocates in Northern California, PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) explored what it will take to change the discourse on violence, with a focus on the news media.

First, BMSG and partners worked with community violence prevention leaders to identify specific, solutions-oriented frames missing from the current discourse on violence. BMSG then conducted a news analysis of how those frames appeared in California papers from 2013-2015. Using this novel methodology, BMSG evaluated news from different sectors to identify opportunities for journalists to elevate community violence prevention. This research was then presented at convenings with community leaders to get their input and draft additional tools for action.

BMSG’s research uncovered trends in how community violence and safety are framed in California news—specifically, that a solutions-oriented frame is dwarfed by sensationalist coverage of individual crimes; that community safety news focuses on solutions, including preventive solutions; that police dominate the coverage but community residents are becoming more visible; and that an emerging frame in the coverage focuses on racism as a root cause of violence. These findings lay the groundwork for shifting the discourse around violence and elevating prevention. See the full research.