June 4, 2019
Marking Gun Violence Awareness Month
A recently published study looking at temporal trends of mortality from firearms among youth between 1999 and 2017 found that mortality rates among school-aged youth is increasing at alarming rates in the United States, especially among Black youth and those aged 15-18 years.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that firearms are the second leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. and the leading cause of death for Black children and teens.
To address this senseless loss of our youth, we need to identify and promote effective community-based interventions in the neighborhoods that are most impacted.
An approach to violence prevention that is of great importance to Doctors of the World is hospital-based violence prevention initiatives. Based on our extensive history supporting and improving promising medical models to increase access to care, we recently began collaborating locally with hospital-based violence intervention programs that we believe can reduce violence where it is occurring.
Hospital-based violence intervention programs provide support and services for patients who need urgent care for violent trauma such as a gunshot wound, stabbing or other form of violent assault.
Although every program differs somewhat in how they operate or which patient population they serve, they share the common goal of providing support to the patient by intervening during their ‘golden window’ in the hospital when they have just arrived with a violent injury.
The goal is for a trained staff member, who is experienced in the community and often from a similar background, to intervene and to prevent retaliation, ending the continued cycle of violence by the patient.
The Health Alliance for Violence Intervention or the HAVI (formerly known as the National Network of Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs) is the leading organization that supports such hospital-based initiatives across the country.
Following the HAVI network model, Doctors of the World (DotW) provides support for hospital-based violence intervention programs within the New York City area as a first step in designing programming that supports the field of gun violence intervention. DotW strives to support and promote effective, community-based models of gun-violence reduction programs that, ideally, include collaborations between hospitals, community based organizations, schools and local health departments.
DotW is coupling our support for on-the-ground hospital and community based initiatives with advocacy work to make real change that would prevent further violence, including federal support to study the effectiveness of various models. We are allied with the recent powerful groundswell movement among physicians who treat victims of gun violence in response to the NRA’s admonition for them to “stay in your lane” after the release of a 2018 American College of Physicians position paper calling for increased funding for research on gun violence.
We especially advocate for pushing back against the NRA’s long standing efforts to sustain the 1996 Dickey Amendment restrictions on the use of federal funds for research on gun violence injury prevention.
At DotW we know that our work within hospitals and alongside community-based organizations to reduce gun-related deaths among children and youth in urban environments is just a start, and that large disparities remain. We must bind together to advocate for increases in funding and research—you can’t improve what you can’t measure—and more largely disseminated best practices for interventions that we can apply to the communities that need them the most.
In addition, we must advocate on the policy level for real changes in our government that will provide the laws and resources necessary to support those affected by gun violence and prevent future violence from taking our children too soon.