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Dr. Gary Slutkin in "Blocking the Transmission of Violence" compares gang violence in Chicago to infectious diseases. Compare and contrast COVID-19 to Chicago gang violence. What are the similarities/differences? Are the solutions similar/different?

Quick answer:

The similarity between COVID-19 and Chicago gang violence is that the treatment of both is primarily focused on prevention. The difference is that, according to CeaseFire, the treatment of violence is best administered by those who have already faced it themselves.

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The article "Blocking the Transmission of Violence" by Alex Kotlowitz draws compelling parallels between violence and disease. A focal point in the article is Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist and the founder of CeaseFire, an organization dedicated to stopping violence in Chicago. Slutkin's work combatting epidemics informs his work with CeaseFire, and he draws explicit connections between them. He says:

For violence, we’re trying to interrupt the next event, the next transmission, the next violent activity...And the violent activity predicts the next violent activity like HIV predicts the next HIV and TB predicts the next TB.

CeaseFire's efforts are concentrated on containing the spread of violence so it is not necessary to treat “infections” later on. There is a clear parallel here with responses to COVID-19. Governments around the world have stressed quarantine and social distancing as key tactics for limiting the spread of the virus and therefore keeping hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. As with Slutkin's approach to violence, the focus is on prevention rather than treatment.

When it comes to treatment, though, the parallels between CeaseFire's struggle with violence and the worldwide battle with COVID-19 begin to break down. COVID is treated by medical professionals, and the sheer amount of cases in some regions has made it necessary to enlist physicians of widely differing specializations. In all cases, though, those treating the infected have extensive medical training. CeaseFire's approach is entirely opposite. Those who attempt to stop the spread of violence do not have backgrounds in social work or conflict resolution. According to Kotlowitz, Slutkin's philosophy is this:

You want to go after them with individuals who themselves were once either infectious spreaders or at high risk for the illness. In the case of violence, you use those who were once hard-core, once the most belligerent, once the most uncontrollable, once the angriest.

In his view, the people best suited to treat violence are those who have first-hand experience with it themselves. Since this is a social problem rather than a medical one, it is crucial for mediators to establish a connection with those most at risk to commit violence. With a medical concern like COVID-19, it is not necessary for those treating the sick to have had a similar experience.

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