The Connection Between Gang Violence and Obesity

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By Alisi Tulua

Obesity contributes to the deadliest chronic diseases killing many in underserved communities.  There are many efforts to curb obesity with most of these efforts focused on nutrition and physical activity.  Project SEEK (Safety Education and Engagement for our Kids), funded through W.K.Kellogg Foundation’s Health Through Action for Children and Families grant, aims to create policy within law enforcement agencies in Lennox and Hawthorne to create a safer community with the hopes of encouraging use of physical community space by families and their children.  For communities in Lennox and Hawthorne, where gang activities have deemed physical spaces such as parks unsafe, these efforts are small steps toward a healthier environment.

A recent focus group with young Tongan leaders from Lennox and Hawthorne raised two interesting points that are contributing to the project’s approach.  One recurring sentiment raised by these young leaders is that there continues to be distrust of law enforcement.  Their roles in community continues to be seen as threatening to community members rather than supportive.  Another observation is that gang activities, though less visible, is shifting in its message and delivery.  Gang messaging is being delivered through entertainment, music, clothing, and popular art and is therefore appealing to more youth.

Project SEEK’s approach hopes to create a safer environment by breaking down walls that are separating ethnic communities, building a trusting relationship with law enforcement, and creating more positive youth activism to counter the messages and images of gang culture.  A safer environment will help to encourage a more active and healthier community.

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