Sebelius: Youth Violence Leads to Asthma and Obesity

April 2, 2012 - 2:39 PM

(CNSNews.com) – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Monday that youth violence is a “chronic health issue” that can lead to asthma, obesity, or depression for "the youth who are involved," although she did not make clear whether she was speaking solely about the victims of youth violence or the perpetrators or both.

“But it's important to remember--you just heard from the law enforcement side of this--it’s important to remember that the costs of violence go beyond deaths or injuries or tolls on families and communities,” Sebelius said at a Department of Justice conference Monday on youth violence. “Violence is also a chronic health issue.”

“It leads to asthma, it leads to obesity or depression among the youth who are involved,” Sebelius said at the event in Washington, D.C.

“It’s an economic issue," Sebelius went on to say. Currently, it’s thought to cost about $14 billion in medical costs and lost productivity, not just for those acts of violence. And that clearly doesn’t include the economics of the violence itself on communities.”

Youth violence “creates an incredibly vicious cycle since those who witness violence are more likely to become violent themselves,” said Sebelius. “And what all of you today have recognized is that just as the cost of youth violence can affect the whole community, the solutions to youth violence have to come also from the whole community. And at the Department of Health and Human Services, I’m here to tell you that we are committed to supporting that work, both here with our strategies and policies in D.C. but also through our regional offices and our assets on the ground throughout the country.”

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at a Department of Justice summit on April 2, 2012 in Washington, D.C. about how youth violence is a 'chronic health issue' in the United States. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“We think that the solutions” to youth violence, said Sebelius, “start with child care and Head Start programs that we fund in cities around the country. And today we’re working with states and communities to make sure our children are getting the high quality early care and education they need, not only to succeed in school but for the first time, in a pretty historic partnership with the Department of Education, we recognize that social and emotional skills are a critical part of that early learning.”

The Justice Department’s  “Summit on Preventing Youth Violence” is part of the Obama administration’s response to the 2009 death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert, who was beaten to death by gang members in Chicago, organizers said.

“It’s a wonderful indication that in this administration we see the issue of youth violence in all of our departments and in all of our agencies being a really top priority,” Sebelius said.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan also spoke at the summit.

The Department of Justice brought delegations from several U.S. cities to the summit to develop strategies to combat youth violence, including Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Memphis, and San Jose and Salinas, Calif.