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Prothrow-Stith, Deborah

Deborah Prothrow-Stith is Adjunct Professor of the Practice of Public Health at the Department of Health Policy and Management of Harvard University.

841 Parker Street
Ground Floor Office
Boston, Massachusetts 02120
Phone: 617.495.7777


Dr. Prothrow-Stith is a nationally recognized public health leader. As a physician working in inner-city Boston, she broke new ground with her efforts to have youth violence defined as a public health problem; not just a criminal justice issue. Her passion for prevention was not satisfied with the emergency room work of “stitching people up and sending them out.” She turned to public health and, with others, created a social movement to prevent violence that has had an impact on Boston and the nation. In 1987, Governor Dukakis appointed her as the first woman Commissioner of Public Health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In that role, she established the first Office of Violence Prevention in a state department of public health, expanded prevention programs for HIV/AIDS and increased drug treatment and rehabilitation programs.

As a chief spokesperson for a national movement to prevent violence and a frequent speaker in national media and public forums, Dr. Prothrow-Stith supports the application of rigorous scientific methods to strengthen violence prevention programs. She developed and wrote The Violence Prevention Curriculum for Adolescents, a fore-runner of violence prevention curriculum for schools and communities. She is the author of Deadly Consequences, the first book to present the public health perspective on violence to a mass audience. She has authored and/or co-authored over 80 publications on medical and public health issues. She and co-author Howard Spivak, M.D. offer a blue print for community based violence prevention work in their book, Murder Is No Accident (Jossey Bass Publishers, 2004) and a guide for parents of girls in their forthcoming book Sugar and Spice and No Longer Nice, (Jossey Bass Publishers, 2005).

A pioneer and innovator, Dr. Prothrow-Stith continues to develop programs and nurture partnerships with community-based programs locally, nationally and internationally including the critically acclaimed Partnerships for Preventing Violence satellite broadcast training series and an exciting new partnership with Florida A & M University to reduce health disparities funded by NIH-National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities.

She has participated in several international delegations and conferences. For the French American Foundation, she co-hosted a delegation of French social scientists in New York to investigate children and violence. In October 2002, she hosted a delegation of scholars from Latin American countries at the Harvard School of Public Health for a two-day meeting to learn of the violence prevention work in Boston. Dr. Prothrow-Stith and her family lived in Tanzania for two and half years (August 1998 – January 2001) during her husband’s tenure as U.S. Ambassador where she worked with several local projects with Muhimbili hospital, WAMATA (an NGO of people living with HIV) and others.

Dr. Prothrow-Stith currently serves as Associate Dean and Professor of Public Health Practice at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). A Spelman College and Harvard Medical School graduate, she has received ten honorary doctorates, the 1993 World Health Day Award, the 1989 Secretary of Health and Human Service Award, and a Presidential appointment to the National Commission on Crime Control and Prevention.

Selected publications

Prothrow-Stith D, with Weissman M. Deadly Consequences: How violence is destroying our teenage population and a plan to begin solving the problem. New York: HarperCollins, July 1991.

Prothrow-Stith D. Peace by Piece. Boston, MA: Violence Prevention Programs Harvard School of Public Health, 1998.

Prothrow-Stith D, Spivak H. Murder is No Accident: Understanding and Preventing Youth Violence in America. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Publishers, 2004.

Prothrow-Stith D, Spivak H. Sugar and Spice and No Longer Nice: Preventing Violence Among Girls. San Francisco, CA. Jossey Bass Publishers. (expected May 2005)

Prothrow-Stith, D., Spivak, H, & Sege R. Interpersonal Violence Prevention: A recent public health mandate. In Oxford Textbook of Public Health, Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. 2002

Prothrow-Stith D. Strengthening the Collaboration between Public Health and Criminal Justice to Prevent Violence. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics. Spring 2004, vol. 32, pp. 82-88.

Feldman, M, Prothrow-Stith, D. and Chery, C. Homicide Survivors: Research and Practice Implications. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. (in press, August 2005).



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