Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager at the Institute for Public Health
Recent Brown School graduate, Zoe Maya Miller MSW, MPH, who, as a student, worked in collaboration with the Public Health Data & Training Center at the Institute for Public Health, says everyone makes assumptions about what young people want and need. Her recent paper, “Personal goals of young survivors of violent injury: Implications for practice” (a manuscript submitted for publication,) uses data from the institute’s Life Outside of Violence (LOV) Program to explore how current and future goals of younger victims of violence can influence and affect their care.
“People are experts on themselves,” Miller says. “This paper aimed to honor that by describing the personal goals of young people who recently experienced a violent injury. Understanding these goals can help service providers in the St. Louis area tailor services to best meet population needs.”
Once participants enroll in the LOV program, they work with clinical case managers to identify personal goals, which they then work toward during their time in the LOV program. Documentation in the LOV database is rich, descriptive information about the personal desires and unmet needs of program participants. Miller’s important work included reviewing hundreds of participant goals and developing a goal categorization system that has now been added to the LOV case management system to use going forward.
Based on how the goals are categorized, Miller’s research team identified three main findings:
(1) Violent injury survivors in the St. Louis area often have unmet therapeutic and resource needs. This suggests that it is important to engage service providers with both clinical and case management skills.
(2) Gaining skills with which to constructively express anger is a common clinical goal among young survivors of violent injury.
(3) Gainful employment is a common resource need cited by young survivors of violent injury.
Miller says her time working with both the Data Center and the LOV Program has been instrumental in her career path, affirming her interests in violence intervention work and program evaluation.
“I think research and evaluation methods are often taught in a classroom setting, with an emphasis on best-practices and an “ideal world” methodology,” Miller says. “While these are important foundational skills, the experience of applying this knowledge in the context of a real program enables skills that can’t be taught in the classroom. My time working with the Data Center under a wonderful, interdisciplinary team of supervisors (Ben Cooper, Kristen Muller & Kateri Chapman-Kramer) showed me how to creatively approach research and evaluation – even when inevitable roadblocks complicate the “best-practice” scenario. You have to get creative and be receptive to what the data tells you – not what you want the data to say.”
As she moves on to her future career, Miller encourages other WashU students interested in public health to apply to work with the Public Health Data & Training Center.