Two summers ago, Saint Joseph Health System/KentuckyOne Health launched the "United Against Violence" campaign by hosting a two-day conference on the topic of violence. More than 300 leaders from our hospital system attended the conference, and many had their eyes, minds and hearts opened as they heard personal testimonials and gained new insight into the health impact of violence and stress.
It was the start of something very important — the recognition and understanding of these other "unnatural" causes of sickness and death. Until then, many of us in the medical community were more accustomed to associating negative health outcomes with factors like smoking and diet.
The lessons from the conference helped lay the foundation for the work and challenges of the campaign. But our goal was the prevention of violence, and that meant going beyond the walls of our hospital to engage with people out in the community.
During the past several years I have had the privilege of meeting people from various professional and personal backgrounds — social workers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, counselors, teachers, pastors, activists, parents — who work passionately and tirelessly to build a safe and healthy Lexington.
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We've teamed up with leaders from Russell Cave Church of Christ, the neighborhood association and schools in the Winburn community on the north side of town. All of these community champions form the building blocks of this violence prevention initiative.
We looked at many different issues of violence, and with guidance from community partners, we decided to focus our effort on youth violence, an issue that has been making local headlines in recent years and has prompted civic leaders to mobilize and take action.
In recent weeks, the Herald-Leader has devoted much-needed attention to the issues of violence concerning our youth and has been instrumental in highlighting the positive work that is taking place, such as the rousing Spotlight on Youth event at the Lyric Theatre hosted by my friends at Partners for Youth.
So will we solve every problem and completely eradicate violence? That's not a realistic goal.
The reality is that violence is a part of life, often unpredictable and without discrimination. As we sadly witness time and time again in the news, violence can hit anywhere, anytime, anyone. For many, it is a deeper personal issue, with the perpetrator someone very close and dear.
Our work is challenging and can seem nebulous at times, but the common denominator and motivator that I hear from these community champions is: "If I can make a positive difference in just one person's life ..."
With that thought in mind, I encourage everyone to join this effort. Every one of us can be a building block for positive change that leads to a safer, healthier Lexington for our children and youth.
As Henry Ford once said, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."