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HSPH Prof Awarded for Violence Prevention Work

By Denny Purcell, Contributing Writer

Last week, Boston-area children sat on a panel alongside a man who has devoted much of his professional career to protecting kids like them from youth violence.

Harvard School of Public Health Professor David Hemenway ’66 was honored with the Striving for Justice Award by Community Works—a portfolio consisting of 34 social justice organizations—for his extensive work on implementing violence prevention programs.

At the award ceremony last Tuesday, Hemenway was accompanied by children from several Community Works member organizations. The children discussed their thoughts on violence in their communities.

“We not only seek to alleviate suffering, but eliminate the cause of the suffering,” said Community Works Executive Director Fran Froehlich. “David’s work, we feel, is contributing to understanding what’s happening ... on a social level, on a public health level.”

Froehlich added that this understanding may provide ways to help victims and perpetrators of youth violence.

Hemenway’s work in Boston has involved surveying both high-school students and adults about youth violence, with the intent of helping Boston best distribute its resources.

Hemenway thanked the mayor and city of Boston, saying they served as valuable assets for his work.

“We’re very fortunate to have such a ... progressive, strong, interested, caring government in Boston,” he said.

Hemenway and others have found a link between sleep deprivation and increased violence. He has also found that children tend to go to sleep at similar times, but some must wake up earlier due to earlier school start times.

Hemenway has also investigated the overestimation of the number of people carrying guns, as studies have shown that children believe their peers and community members carry guns at a much higher rate than they actually do.

In addition, Hemenway stressed the need to protect LGBT children, especially those who are facing bullying, as these children are most likely to be depressed or considering suicide.

“You can see from his history David is someone who cares a great deal about his community—about what it is we need to pay attention to in order to bring greater physical and emotional well-being to that community,” Froehlich said.

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School of Public Health