In communities where violence is an issue, ensuring a sense of public safety can be critical to the success of policy and environmental change strategies to improve health. A neglected or poorly designed built environment may signal violence or the potential for violence, reinforcing a situation in which people are afraid to use local parks, streets and sidewalks, for example. Violence is a significant barrier to physical activity and to “getting out” in general and therefore to combating obesity and improving public health.

This case study looks at Preventing Violence-Healthy Eating Active Living (PV-HEAL), an innovative initiative funded by the national Convergence Partnership that supports obesity prevention within a violence-prevention framework in six sites across the nation: Detroit, West Oakland, Chula Vista, Philadelphia, Denver and Louisville. In addition to recognizing connections between violence, environmental conditions and health, a notable feature of PV-HEAL is a requirement to engage youth in identifying and implementing solutions.