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Community-Based Participatory Research Approaches to Youth Violence Prevention: Reflections on the Special Issue
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Community-Based Participatory Research Approaches to Youth Violence Prevention:
Reflections on the Special Issue

Although the rates of violence among adults and youth have declined over the past 15 years, youth violence continues to be a significant public health concern.1 Given the complexities associated with violence, prevention researchers often form collaborations with community partners to address this intractable public health problem. This special issue of Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, & Action is dedicated to the topic of youth violence prevention research. We have collected a series of high-quality papers that highlight research that engages the community in the planning, implementation, and evaluation phases of programs that aim to prevent youth violence. We are pleased to showcase the work of youth violence prevention researchers, practitioners, and community collaborators that is consistent with the principles and practices of community-based participatory research (CBPR). The special issue was supported in part by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because preventing youth violence through promoting community–research partnerships is a critical function of the CDC's Division of Violence Prevention.1

We received dozens of strong submissions for this special issue. Consistent with the mission of Progress in Community Health Partnerships, we have featured a series of Original Research and Work-in-Progress & Lessons Learned papers that apply principles of CBPR in an effort to develop or implement evidence-based violence prevention strategies.2 The articles described violence prevention research conducted in different contexts, including schools, after-school programs, community-based programs, and community settings. Several different aspects and forms of youth violence were addressed, such as bullying, aggression, fighting, and gang involvement. All of the empirical articles featured in this special issue were jointly authored by academic researchers and community partners from diverse settings, such as faith-based organizations, community-based programs, community health worker programs, schools, and school districts. Furthermore, all of the articles highlighted the role of partnerships in multiple phases of the research process. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used by the research teams to document the implementation process and outcomes of the youth violence prevention activities.

Several common themes emerged across the diverse set of papers, including issues related to recruitment and retention of qualified staff to implement the programs. As with other types of prevention programs, implementation quality and sustainability were highlighted as common concerns. Some of the authors discussed the critical role of youth voice and the importance of actively engaging youth and community partners in the program development process. Another common challenge was balancing the need for a rigorous research design and meeting priorities of the community. For example, the study by Leff and colleagues3 described the process by which the Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center selected a study design for their after-school prevention program and the decision to forgo additional qualitative data collection. This paper illustrated the importance of shared decision making in all phases of the research process. Also included in this issue is a transcript of the podcast recorded with Leff and co-author Thomas, in which they elaborate on the role of CBPR in their center's broader program of youth violence prevention research. [End Page 163]

The study by Drabick and Baugh4 presents two perspectives on the research process: One from a university-based researcher and the other from an elementary school principal. Despite CBPR's focus on eliciting community voice, few of the articles clearly illuminated the perspective of community stakeholders—adding to the significance and uniqueness of this article. These co-authors worked collaboratively to develop an observation strategy for monitoring and preventing aggressive behavior on the playground at an inner-city elementary school in Philadelphia. The researchers illustrated the utility of the CBPR framework for the development of ecologically valid assessments of aggression and peer victimization. A related study by Nation and colleagues5 summarizes the lessons learned from working collaboratively with the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to prevent bullying through the development of a school-wide prevention model. The authors identify potential barriers to program implementation, including the growing emphasis on...