Rich Hamburg’s Alliance with Safe States Strengthens Injury and Violence Prevention

May 31, 2018|2:13 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Rich HamburgRich Hamburg is executive director of Safe States Alliance. Prior to this, he served as executive vice president and COO of Trust for America’s Health. Hamburg has more than 30 years of experience as a leading health policy advocate. With National Safety Month around the corner in June, ASTHO sat down with Hamburg to discuss his new role, Safe States’ reinvigorated mission to strengthen the practice of injury and violence prevention, and opportunities for public health leaders to raise awareness around these important issues.

As the new executive director of Safe States Alliance, what injury and violence prevention policy issues are you most eager to tackle?   

I’m excited to be at the helm of Safe States during some challenging times for the field of injury and violence prevention. States and communities have been hard hit by the opioid epidemic. While there have been significant investments made in surveillance, revising prescribing guidelines, medication assisted treatment, expanding the availability of overdose reversal medications, and strengthening coordination of prescription drug monitoring programs, there remains a need to invest in true primary prevention, which includes addressing the impact of adverse childhood experiences. In addition, as a longtime prevention advocate, I am eager to bring similar levels of attention and investment to other pressing intentional and unintentional injury and violence prevention issues. In my new role, I’d like to see programs and policies significantly expanded to address intentional violence, including the promotion of firearm safety initiatives and research. 

As the leader of a national membership organization, what is your philosophy on helping your members achieve their professional goals and strengthen the practice of injury and violence prevention?  

The Safe States membership is the foundation of everything we do. In a few short months, I’ve spoken to many of our members and have been so impressed by their knowledge and passion. We are successful when members are engaged and working collaboratively toward our common mission. Staff recognize that injury and violence prevention capacity is built upon a series of core competencies meant to build and sustain infrastructure as well as a stable and supportive organizational home. This includes collecting, analyzing, and disseminating injury and violence prevention data; selecting, implementing, and evaluating effective programs and policy strategies; engaging partners for collaboration; as well as effective communications, comprehensive training, and technical assistance. It is essential to invest in our membership and continue providing training, opportunities for partnership, and the resources needed for success.

What do you see as some of the most immediate opportunities for public health leaders to raise awareness around injury and violence prevention? 

When it comes to injury and violence prevention, there is certainly no shortage of opportunity to improve and save lives. The opioid crisis, including overdoses from prescription medications, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, as well as increases in suicide, continuing violence against children and domestic partners (including the #MeToo movement), and traumatic brain injuries—to name a few—have increased awareness around the problems we face. Nearly 200,000 Americans die each year from injury at a cost of over $670 billion in healthcare expenditures. Now is the time for action, including greater investment in effective injury prevention programs. For example, Congress should allocate sufficient resources to expand CDC’s Core State Violence and Injury Prevention Program and also support gun violence prevention research. Now is also the time to implement collaborative policy strategies, enhance injury and violence prevention capacity, and collaborate with local, state, and federal policymakers and partner organizations to advance the practice of injury and violence prevention.