In this podcast, Barbara Raymond discusses promising innovations and cross-sector collaborations between public health and public safety with the goal to improve the overall health and safety of our communities. (Transcript)
At the California Endowment we do have a mission that is focused on improving the health of all Californians. About three years ago, we undertook a new strategic direction with a program called Building Healthy Communities. The point of that program was really to acknowledge that health happens to us in the broadest sense of the word. Health is much more that happens at the doctor’s office or even any diets we are undertaking at any moment in time.
Our health really rests on a lot of things in our community, including the quality of the air that we breathe, the type of the school that you go to and what services it has available to you, the food and the exercise that your children get at school. It has to do with whether there’s access to healthy food in your community. We know also that it has to do with the violence or safety that is happening in your community or that your community seeks. When we went to these communities across California as part of this new plan, we went to 14 communities in depth. They spoke—we did a needs assessment process with about 20,000 residents—they unanimously spoke up and said,
“You know what, violence in our communities is our number one health issue. Before you want to work on any other health issues, you must address violence. We have to be safe. We have to have safe parks. We have to have safe places to walk and exercise and all those good things before we can really address all the other health issues and access points you might want to be addressing.”
That was a little bit of a wakeup call. We had been aware, the California Endowment staff had been aware, that violence had been an issue. But when the residents and the people of California said that with such a strong voice, we really turned too and tried to understand what that would mean for a health foundation to start really, more intensively, doing work in that zone.
What we know about violence prevention is that police are really your first line of defense and, some would argue, are really critical when it’s time. Police are already the folks that are out in the community with residents. We started looking at what police departments were doing across the State of California, who was doing interesting things in the field of prevention, who was taking what we would call a public health approach to the field, and started really exploring that area of partnership with law enforcement a lot more intentionally.