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FRIDAY, Jan. 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Strong bonds that tie people together can protect neighborhood residents from gun violence, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that exposure to gun violence declines as community participation rises.
"Violence results in chronic community-level trauma and stress, and undermines health, capacity and productivity in these neighborhoods," the study's lead author, Dr. Emily Wang, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Yale, said in a university news release.
"Police and government response to the problem has focused on the victim or the criminal. Our study focuses on empowering communities to combat the effects of living with chronic and persistent gun violence," Wang explained.
The investigators analyzed neighborhoods with high rates of crime in New Haven, Conn. The researchers taught 17 residents of these communities about research and survey methods so they could collect information from roughly 300 of their neighbors.
More than 50 percent of people surveyed said they knew none of their neighbors or just a few of them. Nearly everyone surveyed reported hearing a gunshot. The study also showed that two-thirds of those polled had a friend or relative hurt by violence. Nearly 60 percent had a friend or family member die as a result.
The study's preliminary findings suggest participation of community members in strategies to reduce gun violence is essential, the researchers said.
"Disaster preparedness principles like community resilience can be used to improve a community's ability to band together and use resources to respond to, withstand, recover from, and even grow from bad events," said Wang. "Core components of these principles include social and economic well-being, physical and psychological health, effective risk communication, social connectedness, and integration with organizations."
The researchers presented their findings recently at a workshop of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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