Should Health Systems Recognize Gun Violence as a Disease?


Expert participants convened at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop entitled "Health Systems Interventions to Prevent Firearm Injuries and Death" to address questions related to recognizing gun violence as a disease and the involvement of large scale health systems to identify interventions.

University of Pennsylvania Nursing School Professor and LDI Senior Fellow Therese Richmond, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, was a member of the Planning Committee that organized the workshop. Richmond was also the co-founder of the Firearm and Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania that evolved into today's University of Pennsylvania Injury Science Center. She was one of three Penn researchers who took part in the workshop. The others were Rinad Beidas, PhD, Director of the Penn Implementation Science Center at LDI (PISCE) and LDI Senior Fellow, and Joel Fein, MD, MPH, a Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and co-director of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Violence Prevention Initiative.

"We have to figure out how to do so more safely in a way not unlike how we addressed the problem of car crash deaths decades ago. In one of the top public health successes of the 20th century, we dramatically lowered deaths from car crashes and we accomplished that without getting rid of the cars. We established a national Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reporting system. The data were available to researchers to study. There was a regulatory agency that could make policy changes based on what was learned by the researchers. For example, when we found that putting a child in a car seat in the front seat killed kids when the airbags deployed, it only took a few deaths before car seats were restricted to back seat use only. This successful injury prevention program worked because we had the data, the researchers, and the regulatory system focused on the problem. We could do the same for gun violence." stated Richmond.

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