The Attorney General and Health
Because of the Attorney General’s broad purview, expansive power, and mandate to
protect the public’s safety, the Attorney General’s Office’s policies and priorities have a
direct and significant impact on the health and safety of Californians. This Office affects
health in numerous ways, including by protecting consumers, reducing violence, and
reducing exposures to toxic chemicals.
Consumer Protection and Health
• Fraudulent activity contributes to increases in foreclosure rates and loss of
homeownership has numerous physical and mental health consequences for
individuals and families.
• Advertising unhealthy foods to children contributes to poor nutrition and to
overweight and obesity among youth.1
• Deceptive advertising of certain low-nutrient processed foods to suggest
equivalence with fresh foods induces poor food choices and undermines efforts to
educate children about proper nutrition.
Opportunities to Address Consumer Protection and Health
• The Attorney General should continue to investigate and prosecute loan modification
scam artists and phony foreclosure-relief services.
• The Attorney General should continue to enforce against any violators of state
housing law, such as cities failing to meet their share of regional housing needs.
• The Attorney General can take legal action to address deceptive advertising claims
on low-nutrient products.
• The Attorney General has a potential role in analyzing legal barriers to siting of
healthy food establishments such as full-service grocery stores, farmers’ markets,
and mobile produce vending operations.
Violence and Health
• Violence is a leading cause of injury, disability, and premature death. There are
disproportionately high rates of domestic and neighborhood violence in low-income
communities and communities of color,2 contributing to the poor health outcomes
experienced within these populations.
• Persons exposed to violence as children often use behaviors such as smoking and
alcohol use as coping mechanisms, putting them at greatly increased risk of
developing chronic disease as adults.3
• Neighborhood violence, and the fear of it, can undermine attempts to improve
outdoor physical activity levels, exacerbating existing illnesses and increasing the
risk for onset of disease.4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13
Opportunities to Address Violence and Health
• The Attorney General could revive the programs of its now-defunct Crime and
Violence Prevention Center that enhanced multi-sector collaboration to reduce
violence (e.g., law enforcement, mental health, social services, community policing),
and assist children exposed to trauma and violence in the home (e.g., Safe from the
• The Attorney General could renew the Safe Passages Partnership to protect
children from violence when traveling to and from school by foot or bicycle, thereby
encouraging active transportation.
• The Attorney General can employ the bully-pulpit to advance an integrated
prevention-intervention-suppression-enforcement approach to broadly address
violence across California.
Environmental and Natural Resources Law
• The Attorney General has the independent power and duty to protect the natural
resources of the State from pollution, impairment, or destruction in furtherance of the
• Exposure to toxins from hazardous waste sites, polluting facilities, air emissions,
consumer products, and other sources adversely affects public health.
• The quality of the built environments in which people live, work, and play significantly
impacts health. Many decisions surrounding the design, planning, and building of
these environments are made at the local level.
• The Attorney General can assert significant influence over the California
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, which identifies climate change as an
environmental impact within the scope of CEQA.
Opportunities to Improve Health through Environmental and Natural Resource
• The Attorney General should continue to maintain a web information source of
CEQA mitigation measures pertaining to smart growth and non-vehicular
transportation, and to provide assistance to localities in incorporating such measures
into planning documents. When commenting on Draft Environmental Impact
Reports, the Attorney General could make recommendations regarding project
alternatives and feasible mitigation measures that provide public health as well as
greenhouse gas reduction benefits, such as measures that increase community food
• The Attorney General currently represents the Department of Toxic Substances
Control in cases regarding violations of hazardous materials and hazardous waste
laws, and participates in a variety of Proposition 65 cases regarding toxics exposure.
The Attorney General can use his or her prosecutorial discretion to initiate
Proposition 65 cases that confer significant public health benefits.
This issue brief was produced through a collaborative effort between the California
Department of Public Health, individual members of the Health in All Policies (HiAP)
Task Force, and the HiAP Stakeholder Advisory Group, and is not intended to imply
specific recommendations for State agency action. For more information on the HiAP
Task Force, please visit www.sgc.ca.gov/workgroups/hiap.html.
Kaiser Family Foundation. “The Role of Media in Childhood Obesity.” February 2004.
Sells, C.W. and Blum, R.W. “Morbidity and mortality among US adolescents: An overview of data and
trends.” American Journal of Public Health 86, no. 4 (1996): 513-519.
Feletti, Vincent J. “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading
Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.” American Journal of
Preventive Medicine 14, no. 4 (May 1998): 245-258.
Loukaitou-Sideris, A. “Is it safe to walk?: Neighborhood safety and security considerations and their
effects on walking.” Journal of Planning Literature 20, no. 3 (2006): 219-32.
Weir Weir, L.A., Etelson, D., Brand, D.A. ”Parents' perceptions of neighborhood safety and children's
physical activity.” Preventive Medicine 43, no. 3 (2006): 212-7.
Molnar, B.E., Gortmaker, S.L., Bull, F.C., et al. “Unsafe to play? Neighborhood disorder and lack of
safety predict reduced physical activity among urban children and adolescents.” American Journal of
Health Promotion 18, no. 5 (2004): 378-386.
Harrison, R.A., Gemmell, I., Heller, R.F. “The population effect of crime and neighbourhood on physical
activity.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 61 (2007): 34-39.
Sallis, J.F., King, A.C., et al. “Perceived environmental predictors of physical activity over 6 months in
adults: Activity counseling trial.” Health Psychology 27, no. 2 (2008): 214.
Eyler, A.A., Matson-Koffman, D., et al. ”Quantitative study of correlates of physical activity in women
from diverse racial/ethnic groups: The women’s cardiovascular health network project summary and
conclusions.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 25, 3 Suppl 1 (2003): 93–103.
Bennett, G.G., McNeil, L.H., et al. “Safe to walk? Neighborhood safety and physical activity among
public housing residents.” PLoS Medicine 4, no. 10 (2007): e306.
Yancey AK, Kumanyika SK. Bridging the gap: Understanding the structure of social inequities in
childhood obesity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2007;33(4S1): S172-S174.
Neckerman, K.M., Bader, M., et al. “Measuring food access in urban areas.” National Poverty Center,
Working Paper 2009, accessed on July 30, 2009, www.npc.umich.edu/news/events/food-
Rohrer, J.E., Arif, A.A., et al. “Unsafe neighborhoods, social group activity, and self-rated health.”
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