The rate of gun violence continues to rise across America. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of homicides increased by almost 30 percent, the largest increase in one year in six decades. The death toll from weapons in 2021 has risen even higher and is approaching the previous one peak mortality from weapons in the early 1970s – early 1990s. Although the severe devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly played a role, we may not fully understand for years what caused this growth.
At the same time, health systems need to play a bigger role prevention of gun violence. We understand that this pandemic has pushed our health care system to the limit, and prioritizing everything but urgent needs will be difficult, but gun violence is one of the deadliest and longest lasting epidemics in America. This is nothing but an urgent need.
Last summer, Northwell Health, co-authored by the CEO (Dowling) and pediatric trauma surgeon (Satya), respectively, asked several dozen medical centers to work together to ask Congress to better fund weapons-based violence testing programs. We have been joined by 18 systems, but they make up only 3 percent of the country’s medical centers. We can do better.
We call on health systems across the country to build on proven models of hospital violence intervention (HVIP) to create coordinated system-wide programs that provide physicians, nurses, paramedics, and social workers with the tools they need. talk to the people they are treating about preventing gun injuries.
To that end, Northwell Health created Fr. Center for the Prevention of Violence with Weapons (CGVP) in 2019. The Center coordinates our efforts to make gun violence a top health priority in our system by conducting research on the HVIP strategy, developing a public health strategy to combat the epidemic, guiding peer education, sharing best practices and advocating for reform. GVP at the local, state and national levels.
Our work is created for us, but we have a framework with proven results.
The first HVIP, Hit by crossfire, was launched in 1993 in Oakland, California to offer full-fledged mentoring, legal support, work and mental health support to young people in hospital recovering from a gunshot wound. Researchers from the University of San Francisco Medical Center evaluated the program and found that its participants were 70 percent less likely be arrested for any offense and are 60 percent less likely to be involved in any criminal activity, compared to a control group that did not receive program services. Participants in another gun violence intervention program at the University of Maryland Medical Center were much less likely to be shot; only 5 percent of program participants received recurrent injuries compared to 36 percent who did not participate in the program.
More than 90 percent of adults living in guns houses say they have never discussed the safety of firearms with a doctor; seeking to lower that figure, Northwell is pursuing the first of its kind National Institutes of Health– research funded. We are currently launching a universal survey protocol in which we ask our patients questions about their exposure to firearms to better understand the risk that they may be on one side of gun violence.
As a pilot, our healthcare providers talk to patients who come to our three hospitals. how to avoid weapon damage– just like we talk to them about sugar consumption, exercise or car safety. Previously, there was no standardized procedure for when and how clinicians should conduct these interviews. We are now talking to patients who have access to firearms, about safe storage, providing them with locks for weapons and connecting those at risk of violence with weapons, with relevant intervention services such as peer educators, mental health support, professional programs learning and more.
In urban settings, up to 41 percent of people treated for violent injuries return to the emergency department with gunshot wounds. An action to combat violence in hospitals can only be successful if it is closely linked to organizations working to end violence and outreach on the street. This close coordination requires time, money and building relationships not only between doctors and nurses, law enforcement and violators, but also between top managers of hospitals, police departments and community organizations.
The Biden administration seems to appreciate the scale of this other epidemic. American Rescue Plan Act, assistance plan from COVID, includes $ 350 billion for states and local governments. Many use part of this funding support anti-violence programs. And if the federal government passes legislation in the spirit of President Biden’s “Back Better”. frameworkan additional $ 5 billion will be spent exclusively on programs to combat violence in hospitals and communities, making it the largest investment in gun violence prevention in American history.
Finally, when making changes to our hospitals and our industry is important, this is the best way to help reduce gun violence in the long run it is up push politicians to action. Our government has responded to warnings about the harmful effects of tobacco on health and the need to improve car safety laws. While our legislators legislate on climate change and reproductive justice, both of which affect the people who pass through our doors, they must also be sincere and realistic about the demise of gun violence and the possibility of mitigating it.
Healthcare facilities can only do so much to protect the people we serve. But we take into account 17 percent of GDP and 22 million jobs. That’s why about 600 health systems in the U.S. and the leaders who run them need to pool our voices and industry resources to advocate for common sense weapons reforms at all levels of government.