How can we create safe, connected, communities free of violence?

How does community cohesion shape health?

The same social factors and conditions that shape health and mental health, like education, income, and environment, are strongly linked to violence as well.1 Exposure to violence is preventable and influences nearly all health and mental health outcomes ranging from an individual’s ability to adopt healthy behaviors and manage stress, to chronic disease and other serious health issues, to a community’s weakened social ties and lack of economic investment.2

Quick Facts

  • Exposure to violence has been linked to increased incidence or worsening of many chronic health conditions; including asthma, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.3
  • Communities where there are many risk factors (e.g. high poverty, unemployment, and crime) are more likely to experience multiple forms of violence.4
  • Research has shown that strong social networks correspond with significantly lower rates of homicide and alcohol and drug use.5

The Opportunity

How can we build community cohesion? What else can we do to prevent violence and create safe neighborhoods?

What’s being done?

Here are just a few examples of efforts underway at the state and local level to address this issue:

State Efforts

Action Plan to Promote Violence-Free and Resilient Communities
This plan was developed by the Health in All Policies Task Force to direct their collaborative work around violence prevention from April 2016-December 2018. With a focus on cross-sector action, the plan seeks to build State agency capacity and support coordination to address structural drivers of violence and promote communities that are safe, free of violence, and resilient.

[Read more]

Community Mobilization to Promote Healthy Relationships
The California Department of Public Health, in partnership with the Blue Shield of California Foundation, funds local domestic violence agencies and rape crisis centers across the state to implement a teen dating violence prevention strategy, called Close to Home, which cultivates youth leadership and mobilizes whole communities to promote healthy relationships. This strategy employs youth leaders in community-centered efforts that build social efficacy and foster solutions to violence.   [Read more]

Local Efforts         

The Health Education Council’s (HEC) HEAL Zone is an initiative that aims to increase healthy eating and enable active living for the more than 13,000 residents living in the South Sacramento Valley Hi neighborhood. The goals of the innovation are to decrease calorie consumption, increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, increase physical activity in community settings, and increase physical activity in institutional settings. HEC staff and community partners identified Valley Hi Park as a nexus for increased physical activity, and have begun engaging the community to increase positive park activity, advocate for park and street improvements, and deter negative and violent activity. HEAL Zone is a 2015 Innovation Challenge Finalist. [Read More]

Check out even more in the Innovation Challenge Showcase.

Links and Resources


  1. Health in All Policies Task Force. (2016, April 11). Action Plan to Promote Violence-Free and Resilient Communities. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from….pdf
  2. Egerter S, Barclay C, Grossman-Kahn R, Braveman P for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Violence, Social Disadvantage and Health. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, May 2011.
  3. Michelle Liberman, S. Z. (2015). Safe Routes to School. Oakland, CA: Safe Routes to Shool National  Partnership. From
  4. California Endowment. (February 2015). Community Safety: A Building Block for Community Health . The Prevention Institute. From
  5. UNITY. (n.d.). Multi-Sector Collaboration. Retrieved January 8, 2016, from