Background: Youth violence affects thousands annually, with homicide being the third leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 24 years. This systematic review aims to evaluate the published evidence for the effects of health care-based violence intervention programs (VIPs), which focus on reducing recurrent presentations for injury due to youth violence ("recidivism").
Methods: Health literature databases were searched. Studies were retained if peer reviewed and if programs were health care based, focused on intentional injury, addressed secondary or tertiary prevention (i.e., preventing recidivism and reducing complications), included participants aged 14 to 25 years, had greater than 1-month follow-up, and evaluated outcomes. Studies of child and sexual abuse and workplace, intimate partner, and self-inflicted violence were excluded. Extracted data subject to qualitative analysis included enrollment and retention, duration of follow-up, services provided, statistical analysis, and primary and intermediate outcomes.
Results: Of the 2,144 citations identified, 22 studies were included in the final sample. Twelve studies were randomized controlled trials representing eight VIPs. Injury recidivism was assessed in six (75%) of eight programs with a significant reduction in one (17%) of six programs. Of the randomized controlled trials showing no difference in recidivism, all were either underpowered or did not include a power analysis. Two observational studies also showed significant reduction in recidivism. Significant intermediate outcomes included increased service use, attitude change, and decreases in violence-related behavior. Reductions in injury recidivism led to reductions in health care and criminal justice system costs.
Conclusions: Three studies showing reduced injury recidivism and several studies showing positive intermediate outcomes identify VIPs as a promising practice. Many studies were limited by poor methodological quality, including high losses to follow-up.
Level of evidence: Systematic review, level III.