Merging Science and Safety: Addressing Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue

Op-ed submission:
Chief Operating Officer
Acenda Integrated Health

Merging Science and Safety: Addressing Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue
For the past few years, our nation has been experiencing one of the largest public health crises in recent history.
Gun violence.

A recent article from the Pew Research Center cites startling statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 45,222 people in the U.S. died of gun-related injuries in 2020  more than any other year on record. Though overall rates of gun deaths may be lower than prior years, there are significant and alarming disparities in communities which have historically been affected by multiple other social, economic and health inequities. The trauma experienced by individuals directly and indirectly involved in gun violence can be long-lasting and debilitating. In short, gun-related incidents have become a significant exacerbating factor to the health of many people and their communities across the country.

In addition to the personal toll this epidemic of violence has had on individuals, the tragically high numbers of gun-violence incidents have also cost the U.S. more than $280 billion annually in lifetime costs, including long-term physical and mental health care, criminal justice costs, employer costs, work loss, insurance claims processing, emergency transportation and decreased quality-of-life, according to the American Public Health Association.

Though these types of incidents are pervasive, they are not inevitable. By adopting a public health approach we can address the root causes of growing violence in our communities and create interventions which are not only effective, but are also sustainable. A public health approach would include 4 key components: 1.) conduct surveillance and data analysis to better understand the trends related to gun violence, the causes, populations affected, and the most effective interventions 2.) identify the risk factors associated with gun violence as well as the protective or resilience factors which guard against these types of incidents 3.) develop, implement and evaluate interventions which reduce risk factors while increasing protective factors 4.) ensure successful interventions are operationalized and sustainable. Adopting a public health framework is key to interrupting the transmission of violence in our communities.

To that end, Acenda Institute of Health Innovation (AIHI) is hosting a free, virtual summit – “Merging Science and Safety: Addressing Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue” – led by a variety of national and local health care experts, anti-gun coalitions and violence interventionists from across the country to help change attitudes toward gun violence from simply a criminal justice issue to one of public health.

This summit is more important now than ever. Gun violence grows daily, and each day that we don’t adopt a comprehensive, science-driven, public health approach to keep families and communities safe, the more victims will succumb to these senseless acts of violence. Public health strategies worked for our country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those same scientific principles can also help work to prevent gun violence.

We encourage everyone to join our event 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_OqjODh19SSuAd890izQPmA and take part in important conversations led by industry experts who will propose public health-based solutions to this issue that affects communities everywhere.