The ecology of urban violence: its relationship to health promotion behaviors in low-income black and Latino communities

Am J Health Promot. Mar-Apr 1996;10(4):308-17. doi: 10.4278/0890-1171-10.4.308.


Purpose: The purpose of this review is to identify and examine relationships between exposure to violence and health promotion behaviors in low-income black and Latino groups.

Design: Based on computer surveys of the psychologic, public health, medical, and sociologic literature, approximately 90 previous studies of the impact of exposure to violence on psychologic functioning, perceptions of health and well-being, and health decisions and behavior were identified. This article reviews those studies that examine the relationships between experiences of violence and subsequent feelings of alienation, powerlessness, and hopelessness, and perceptions of health and well-being and studies that examine relationships between alienation, hopelessness, and powerlessness and health promotion behaviors. Studies of health promotion behavior that did not examine or address the impact of exposure to violence are not reviewed in this article.

Results: Violence affects low-income communities directly by contributing to rates of mortality, and indirectly by affecting health promotion behaviors. Exposure to violence can result in feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, and alienation that significantly limit motivation, the extent of involvement, and persistence in overcoming barriers to health promotion behavior.

Conclusions: Future researchers must consider the confounding effects of exposure to violence when investigating differences in health promotion behaviors for low-income black and Latino groups. Community empowerment programs that address the impact of violence and focus on developing control over life and health outcomes may be needed to successfully address the effect of violence on health promotion behavior in low-income, black and Latino communities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Health Behavior / ethnology
  • Health Promotion*
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Poverty
  • Social Alienation
  • United States
  • Urban Population*
  • Violence* / ethnology