Last week, California’s Strategic Growth Council unanimously adopted the Health in All Policies Task Force’s Action Plan to Promote Violence-Free and Resilient Communities. This vote culminates a year-long process of engaging state agencies and community stakeholders to better understand the relationship between safety, health and equity at the community level, with violence emerging as a clear barrier to meeting California’s health and sustainability goals. With the adoption of the Action Plan, the Strategic Growth Council – composed of leadership from seven state agencies and charged with supporting sustainable communities – recognizes violence as a public health issue requiring cross-sector collaboration. Expanding a “health in all policies” focus to encompass violence prevention represents a huge step forward, especially in a state as diverse and complex as California, and serves as a valuable model for other jurisdictions to replicate in designing an integrated approach in which multiple sectors can work together to create safe and resilient communities.
Fostering health and sustainability in every California community requires taking into account the lived experience of residents. In California, violence is a leading cause of injury, disability and premature death, and disproportionately affects young people and communities of color. Exposure to violence shapes the physical, psychological, social, and economic health of individuals, families, and neighborhoods. In too many communities, violence and safety concerns stand in the way of residents using local infrastructure, such as parks, public transit, grocery stores and other neighborhood destinations. Communities that are experienced or perceived as being unsafe are also less likely to benefit from public and private investments to support everything from “green infrastructure” to healthy food retail and good jobs. Investing in sustainability and health goes hand-in-hand with promoting community safety and resilience.
Over the past two decades, we’ve worked with communities in California and across the country to address the underlying factors that shape violence. We know from experience that violence is preventable, not inevitable, and when multiple sectors--from early childhood development to housing and community design to economic development-- work together to prevent violence, results are more comprehensive and effective. In 2015, Prevention Institute developed a Safety in All Policies framework to advance community safety and violence prevention in California, which provides a roadmap for government agencies to engage key stakeholders in education, housing, and community development. Our Community Safety by Design paper offers strategies to engage planning, transportation, and related sectors in comprehensive, multi-sector efforts to prevent violence.
Prevention Institute and our partners commend the Health in All Policies Task Force for developing the Action Plan, and the Strategic Growth Council for their unanimous vote to adopt this vision and prioritize community safety. As the Council turns to implementation, we stand ready. Sign up for Strategic Growth Council email alerts and updates to stay up to date on progress.