Last Wednesday, our mornings were punctured by the news of yet another mass shooting underway, this time on the University of California-Los Angeles campus. Two members of our staff were on campus at the time. On that very same day, gun violence elsewhere in Los Angeles County claimed at least six more lives, and forever changed many more, though these deaths in neighborhoods just miles from the UCLA campus did not receive the same level of media attention.
All these events matter terribly. We’ve sadly come to expect this discrepancy in mainstream news coverage, which downplays the trauma faced by communities most impacted by violence, and the conditions that engender that violence. But this weekend, NBC Bay Area aired a remarkable segment that explored the widening gulf between the “two Oaklands,” one shaped by economic opportunity and the other by a lack of opportunity, and showed the implications of this divide when it comes to safety and resilience. Rather than viewing incidents of violence in isolation, this powerful piece of reporting examined the broader context of violence.
PI board member and partner in our violence and trauma work, Dr. Howard Pinderhughes, was interviewed for the segment, and elaborated on the community conditions that affect safety: “You have highly impacted poor communities, where businesses have left, where government has essentially pulled out, and where you’ve had large-scale public and private disinvestment …”
Of the many factors that influence our health, some of the most difficult to address are the social determinants that are deeply ingrained in our society. In particular, racism and violence have a tremendous impact on health and wellbeing, and communities of color are disproportionately impacted. Fortunately, a lot of work is being done to make the connection between racism, violence, and public health. Earlier today, the American Public Health Association (APHA) hosted No Safety, No Health: A Conversation About Race, Place and Preventing Violence, the second webinar of their four-part series, The Impact of Racism on the Health and Well-Being of the Nation.
Today’s web forum included an engaging discussion featuring APHA Past President Linda Degutis, former director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Howard Pinderhughes of UC San Francisco, Marc Philpart of Policy Link, and Benita Tsao of Prevention Institute. The discussion touched on a wide range of topics including the health impacts of violence and racism, trauma-informed interventions, improving the built environment, shaping positive narratives, and how public health can play a pivotal role in engaging communities for violence prevention.
Here are some of the highlights:
Degutis focused on some of the health impacts of violence.
"More people in the US die as a result of violence than car accidents." -@Degutislc, Defense Health Horizons. #APHAwebinar
Earlier this week, the UCLA Center for Culture, Trauma, and Mental Health Disparities released two studies showing that low-income African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately impacted by mental health issues and chronic conditions. The studies examine five environmental factors that can be used to predict adult depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder:
Experiences of discrimination due to racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation
A history of sexual abuse
A history of violence in the family or from an intimate partner
A history of violence in an individuals’ community
A chronic fear of being killed or seriously injured
The researchers found that repeated exposure to these factors can have a more severe impact as they accrue over a lifetime.
“The costs to society of these life experiences are substantial,” said Hector Myers, a former UCLA psychology professor and first author of the Psychological Trauma study. (Myers is now a professor at Vanderbilt University.) “We know there is a poorer overall quality of life, a loss of productivity, greater social dependency, disability, health and mental health care costs, and early mortality as a result of repeated experiences of stress and trauma.”
They also expressed confidence that the findings of the study could be used to better address the health needs of communities that experience societal trauma at higher rates. Further, they noted that with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is increased access to mental health treatment and care.