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Office of the Surgeon General (US); National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (US); National Institute of Mental Health (US); Center for Mental Health Services (US). Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US); 2001.

Cover of Youth Violence

Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General.

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Message from Donna E. Shalala

Secretary of Health and Human Services

The first, most enduring responsibility of any society is to ensure the health and well-being of its children. It is a responsibility to which multiple programs of the Department of Health and Human Services are dedicated and an arena in which we can claim many remarkable successes in recent years. From new initiatives in child health insurance and Head Start, to innovative approaches to child care, to the investment in medical research that has ameliorated and even eliminated the threat of many once lethal childhood diseases, we have focused directly and constructively on the needs of millions of children. Through programs designed to enhance the strength and resiliency of families and family members across the life span and through our investments in diverse community resources, we are also helping to enhance the lives and enrich the opportunities of millions more of our children.

Although we can take rightful pride in our accomplishments on behalf of U.S. youths, we can and must do more. The world remains a threatening, often dangerous place for children and youths. And in our country today, the greatest threat to the lives of children and adolescents is not disease or starvation or abandonment, but the terrible reality of violence.

We certainly do not know all of the factors that have contributed to creating what many citizens -- young and old alike -- view as our culture of violence. It is clear, however, that as widespread as the propensity for and tolerance of violence is throughout our society -- and despite efforts that, since 1994, have achieved dramatic declines in official records of violence on the part of young people -- every citizen must assume a measure of responsibility for helping to reduce and prevent youth violence. Information is a powerful tool, and this Surgeon General's report is an authoritative source of information.

In directing the Surgeon General to prepare a scholarly report that would summarize what research can tell us about the magnitude, causes, and prevention of youth violence, President Clinton sought a public health perspective on the problem to complement the extraordinary work and achievements in this area that continue to be realized through the efforts of our criminal and juvenile justice systems. Over the past several months, the Department of Health and Human Services has worked with many hundreds of dedicated researchers, analysts, and policy makers whose interests and expertise lie outside the traditional domains of health and human services. What has become clear through our collaboration is that collectively we possess the tools and knowledge needed to throw safety lines to those young Americans who already have been swept up in the currents of violence and to strengthen the protective barriers that exist in the form of family, peers, teachers, and the countless others whose lives are dedicated to the futures of our children.

This Surgeon General's report seeks to focus on action steps that all Americans can take to help address the problem, and continue to build a legacy of health and safety for our young people and the Nation as a whole.

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