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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Addressing the Intersection: Preventing Violence and Promoting Healthy Eating and Active Living

From the PDF file of the Prevention Institute **

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“Lasting changes will come from deep work by individuals to create systemic change.”

Reducing violence in neighborhoods enhances the community environ- ment and allows people to thrive. The prevention of violence facilitates community cohesion and participation, fosters neighborhood improve- ments, expands employment and educational opportunities, and improves overall health and well-being.

Violence influences where people live, work, and shop; whether parents let kids play outside and walk to school; and whether there is a grocery store or places for employment in the community. Violence jeopardizes health and safety directly— causing injuries, death, and emotional trauma. Witnessing or directly experiencing violence, as well as the fear of violence, are damaging, with consequences that also contribute to unhealthy behavior and a diminished community environment. Vio- lence and fear undermine attempts to improve healthy eating and active living, there- by exacerbating existing illnesses and increasing the risk for onset of disease, includ- ing chronic disease. They affect young people, low-income communities, and com- munities of color disproportionately. Violence and food- and activity-related chron- ic diseases are most pervasive in disenfranchised communities, where they occur more frequently and with greater severity, making them fundamental equity issues.

Chronic disease is a major health challenge—it contributes to premature death, lowers quality of life, and accounts for the dramatic rise in recent healthcare spend- ing. One striking example is the increasing prevalence of diabetes in the United States. Researchers predict that by 2034, the number of people suffering from dia- betes will likely double to 44.1 million, and related health care costs will triple to $336 billion.1 Improving healthy eating and active living environments and behaviors is the crucial link to preventing many forms of chronic disease. Health leaders have been making great strides in mounting a strong, effective response to chronic disease and in improving community environments to support healthy eating and activity. However, chronic disease prevention strategies—designing neighborhoods that encourage walking and bicycling to public transit, parks, and healthy food retail, or attracting grocery stores in communities that lack access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables—are less effective when fear and violence pervade the environment. As more communities grapple with chronic disease, health practitioners and advocates are becoming increasingly aware of the need to address violence as a critical part of their efforts, and they are seeking further guidance on effective strategies.

The purpose of this paper is to provide guidance and deepen the understanding of the inter-relationship between violence and healthy eating and activity. It presents first-hand evidence based on a set of interviews Prevention Institute facilitated with community representatives—advocates and practitioners working in healthy eating and active living. Direct quotes from these interviewees appear in italics throughout this paper. In addition to the interviews, the Institute conducted a scan of peer- reviewed literature and professional reports that confirm the intersection between vio- lence and healthy eating and active living.3-12 …

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**Prevention Institute was founded in 1997 to serve as a focal point for primary prevention practice—promoting policies, organizational practices, and collaborative efforts that improve health and quality of life. As a national non-profit organization, the Institute is committed to preventing illness and injury, to fostering health and social equity, and to building momentum for community prevention as an integral component of a quality health system.
Publications are online and free.

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January 18, 2014 - Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Nutrition | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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