Gun Violence is a Public Health Issue?

Posted By News On February 11, 2013 - 10:30pm

Recent violent events have driven gun policy to the top of the President's second-term agenda and an article published in Annals of Internal Medicineby public health experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research says gun violence is not a mental health issue, it is a public health one and requires...physician involvement in the gun policy dialogue?

The authors cite grim statistics regarding gun violence and survival rates and conclude that greater emphasis needs to be placed on prevention and then claim overburdened physicians, about to be even busier under health care reform, are uniquely poised to be at the forefront of prevention efforts.

The authors then ironically ask for evidence-based, well-implemented and enforced policies - but about strategies for physician engagement.

As clinicians, they say, physicians can assure that patients with mental health issues receive treatment that is documented during background checks should they try to purchase a gun. They also can talk with patients and colleagues about guns, discussing prevention and managing fear.

Recently, the President directed the CDC to conduct research into the causes and consequences of gun violence. With funding opening up for research, the authors predict a "robust and impactful research agenda to inform future gun violence prevention efforts."

Finally, as advocates and leaders, they want to task physicians with wading into political water, saying they can use their collective "raised voices" to influence Congress. As the public is ultimately responsible for the state of the country, the authors note that there is now new interest in gun policy that may be helped along by physicians.

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