On Leadership: Violence As A Disease – A Conversation with Gary Slutkin of Cure Violence

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violence-downFrom Citybizlist – Cure Violence is committed to treating violence as an infectious disease. They use methods and strategies associated with disease control: first, using detection to identify individuals involved in transmission; then using interruption to change social norms of communities where violence occurs. Dr. Gary Slutkin, is not only the Founder and Executive Director of Cure Violence, but also the Professor, Epidemiology and International Health, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.

Getting Past the Scary Part. The questions Gary set out to address both in his research and with Cure Violence are, in his words, “why violence behaves like a contagious process and why we’re better served to approach tackling violence by taking this into account.” It’s a tough paradigm for many of us to accept – those of us who see violence as only a criminal act. “There are thousands of studies of violence as a health issue.” Yet as Gary suggests, “we’re primarily still in a moralistic world” when it comes to looking at violence. Gary describes it as “a middle age view of looking at people as bad or scary.” Admittedly, it’s hard to get past the scary part, so the question becomes how else can we look at violence.

The Irony of our Brains. Gary sets out to answer a series of questions. “What is going on? How is it contagious? Why does a violent event cause more violence?” “The reason,” Gary continues, “for that is all in the brain.” “By actually observing violence, by exposure to violence, and by being victimized, [the brain serves as a] portal of entry.” We absorb in a profound way what we experience.

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