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Reducing Violence: Issues, Options, and Opportunities for State Governments

Collecting & Using Data


Billie Weiss, M.P.H., Epidemiology Director of Injury and Violence Prevention Program, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, Los Angeles, CA.

Victoria Frye, M.P.H., Coordinator of Domestic Violence Research Surveillance, Public Health Epidemiology, Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, New York City Department of Health, New York, NY.

The States of California and New York have developed a number of effective data collection strategies to monitor program effectiveness. In Los Angeles, a wide variety of data have been collected, including:

  • Federal firearm licensee data.
  • Gun deaths.
  • Residential areas data.
  • Countywide maps personalized by locations and/or for policymakers.

Los Angeles has also developed a Statewide survey of gun owners that helps to determine where guns are coming from. As a result of this comprehensive data collection initiative, they have established partnerships with local universities and organizations to push for policy changes and to expand data collection to monitor effectiveness of new policies that are put into place.

Ms. Weiss noted that data could be a powerful tool that can effect change and raise public awareness. There are many available sources of useful data—some with a national focus and some with a local focus—and many constituencies use the data available to suit them (i.e., public interest groups, political interest groups, the media). It is important to keep all of this in mind when using data to support findings, and there should be a high degree of importance placed on the credibility of the data that is used.

In 1989, the New York City Department of Health received a capacity-building grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, with this money, built a surveillance program that was designed to collect, analyze, and interpret health data and answer a series of important questions:

  • Who is injured?
  • What are the types of injuries and the nature of the injuries?
  • What is the extent of the injuries and the circumstances that led to the injuries?
  • What are the costs associated with the injuries?

In order to implement this surveillance program, specific hospitals were selected based on hospital size and types of injuries treated. Geographic differentiation was taken into consideration, and cost for implementing the program was considered as well. The goal of the program was to establish and institutionalize a system that captured all weapons-related assault injuries and to better understand patterns in injury distribution over time.

The program has grown to incorporate all intentional injuries, including those resulting in death. Victoria Frye stated that the New York City system is strong because it collects data on all severity levels and on a wide variety of injury types. It is simple and flexible and has proven to be adaptable as well as relatively cheap to maintain. Ms. Frye also commented that the weaknesses of the system are represented by the fact that assault injuries not treated at the emergency room are excluded, some opportunities for evaluation of activities are missed, and patient population is not necessarily representative of the entire population.

The New York surveillance data have been used to give feedback to participating hospitals about intentional injury cases, prepare reports to the public about the violence rates within the city, and develop web-based information sites. In addition, the data are being used by health and human service organizations throughout the State and have also been used to identify population subgroups at high risk of assault for other intervention initiatives.


Wilt SA, Gabrel CS. A Weapon-Related Injury Surveillance System in New York City. Am J Prev Med 1998;15(3):75-82.

Current as of August 2000

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Internet Citation:

Reducing Violence: Issues, Options, and Opportunities for State Governments. Workshop Brief, User Liaison Program, February 7-9, 2000. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.

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