Why Is Community Safety Important to Health?
Community safety reflects not only violent acts in neighborhoods and homes, but also injuries caused unintentionally through accidents. Many injuries are predictable and preventable, yet about 30 million Americans receive medical treatment for injuries each year , and more than 231,000 died from these injuries in 2016 .
In 2015, unintentional injuries were the leading cause of death among individuals ages 1 through 44. Among these unintentional injury deaths, drowning was the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4, motor vehicle traffic accidents were the leading cause of injury death for individuals ages 5–24, and unintentional poisoning was the leading cause of injury death for individuals ages 25-64. Unintentional injury was the fifth leading cause of death for infants, and among these deaths, suffocation was most common .
In 2016, approximately 5.7 million violent crimes such as assault, robbery, and rape, were committed . Each year, 19,000 children and adults are victims of homicide and more than 1,600 children die from abuse or neglect [1,5]. Children in unsafe circumstances can suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and exhibit more aggressive behavior, alcohol and tobacco use, and sexual risk-taking than peers in safer environments .
The chronic stress associated with living in unsafe neighborhoods can accelerate aging and harm health. Unsafe neighborhoods can cause anxiety, depression, and stress, and are linked to higher rates of pre-term births and low birthweight babies, even when income is accounted for. Fear of violence can keep people indoors, away from neighbors, exercise, and healthy foods. Companies may be less willing to invest in unsafe neighborhoods, making jobs harder to find .
One in four women experiences intimate partner violence (IPV) during their life, and more than 4 million are assaulted by their partners each year . IPV causes 2,000 deaths annually and increases the risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and chronic pain .
Injuries sustained in one year will generate more than $794 billion in lifetime costs . Communities can help protect their residents by adopting and implementing policies and programs to prevent accidents and violence.