The Interplay of Community Trauma, Diet, and Physical Activity

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The Interplay of Community Trauma, Diet, and Physical Activity (National Academy of Medicine)

Howard Pinderhughes, Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California San Francisco and a board member of Prevention Institute, discusses how adverse experiences have a destructive and traumatizing impact on communities, specifically the health and wellbeing of citizens.

Violence, racism, inequity, and economic factors all affect the population health of a region, including social interactions, community cohesion, active lifestyles, and healthy eating. Pinederhughes writes, “when people don’t feel safe in their communities, they are less likely to walk to the grocery store, use local parks, access public transportation, and let their children play outside. Healthy food retailers and recreation businesses are less likely to invest in communities perceived as unsafe.” These barriers create significant health inequities, which are exacerbated as “policies and practices have the overconcentration of unhealthy food outlets in communities of color and communities with low to average household incomes.”

This discussion paper focuses specifically on the alignment between strategies that address community trauma and those that support healthy eating and active lifestyles. Three specific examples of regional programs are shared, including those that focus on creating safe spaces, community development/employment, and fostering social cohesion.

Pinderhughes, who spoke in Delaware in both 2015 and 2016 on community trauma, concludes by noting “for these efforts to truly improve health at a community level, we must increase health practitioner and stakeholder awareness of actions that allow communities to heal from community trauma, protect against community trauma, and prevent community trauma in the first place.”

Delaware’s Healthy Neighborhoods strategies are directly inline with Pinderhughes’s viewpoints, and focus on addressing the social determinants of health - including lack of access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity - across the state. With a goal to be one of the five healthiest states in the country, Delaware is looking at successful programs and best practices from around the United States to support its own initiatives. For more information, please visit us at

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