Graffiti Can Be Bad for Health

By SHARPE, Marty

THE hidden health effects of graffiti vandalism are the subject of a $36,000 Government-funded study being carried out by Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

The board’s senior population health adviser, Ana Apatu, and health protection officer Maree Rohleder began the study in May after an approach from Hastings District Council, which is struggling to cope with the high level of graffiti in the district.

The council’s graffiti vandalism strategy is now out for public consultation.

The women agreed to conduct a health impact assessment of the council’s strategy, and received approval and $36,283 funding from the the Public Health Advisory Committee.

Health impact assessments analyse central and local government policies for their potential effects on health and wellbeing. Previous topics include gaming machines, the legal drinking age, urban design and transport.

Graffiti vandals, their victims, police, iwi, councillors and council staff have been consulted in the preparation of the report, which will be published later this year. “People might ask what graffiti vandalism has got to do with health, but if we think of young people being imprisoned . . . what could the potential health impact be on that individual later on in life, what is the pathway for that young person?” Ms Apatu said.

“Another example is the elderly who have had their fence tagged. That might be quite a threat for them. They might be less likely to go walking, they might feel isolated. It’s amazing what has health consequences.”

She believed the council strategy was good, but there were areas on which she and Ms Rohleder would be making recommendations.

Director of Public Health Mark Jacobs said there were many different influences on health and they were much broader than someone suffering a disease or having a heart attack.

“If graffiti is causing community concern in terms of safety, it could affect the broader health and well- being of that community,” he said.

“It’s not just about the rates of cancer in a community or the number of people being injured in car accidents. It can be about how healthy a community feels in itself.”

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