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Project seeks end to youth violence

Lawrence Wallack, PSU professor and director of the School of Community Health, recently received a $250,000 grant from the California Wellness Foundation to evaluate a program developed to reduce youth violence in California.

Ten years ago, the California Wellness Foundation networked with a group of advocates throughout California to inform policymakers and opinion leaders about the need to reduce youth violence.

Wallack plans to gather information through interviews with people who worked with the foundation, examining the media in California and looking at statistics to form a clear picture of how social change can take place.

Results from this study can be applied to any state and in other matters of social change.

Wallack leads faculty, graduate and undergraduate students in this research. Karen Seccombe and Yvonne Michael are among the faculty. Wallack said he is very excited about this project. “It gives me an opportunity to work with other, outstanding faculty,” he said. Students have not yet been selected for this project.

Once the team is formed, its members will evaluate why and how youth violence was reduced in California.

Various leading disciplines are working on research to reduce violence: religion, juvenile justice, education, media, health and the legal field. Wallack said this $60 million dollar project is working, noting that the youth homicide rate in California has declined over the past few years. The research seeks to determine why and how youth violence was reduced.

The foundation asked Wallack to apply for the grant. He has been working with the foundation as an advisor on and off for 10 years.

When the news arrived in December that Wallack had been approved for the grant, he was not surprised. Wallack said he is more than qualified to do the job: he has been published in the field, he lectures on public health and he has received awards regarding public health education. Wallack said he has appeared and consulted for a number of media giants such as Nightline, CNN and Oprah.

The research will take 21 months, starting this month and ending in September 2003. Wallack is waiting to get started, but has been delayed because he needs to get a Human Subjects Approval, which is a committee that approves any study that involves people to ensure that the subjects are protected. By next summer Wallack should have some results.