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Kaiser Permanente creating center for gun violence research

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Photo: Nicholas Free/Getty Images

Kaiser Permanente is establishing a new Center for Gun Violence Research and Education that will focus on gun violence prevention, part of the health system’s response to shootings in Uvalde, Texas and elsewhere.

Nineteen children and two teachers were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas last week when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire inside a classroom. Kaiser has classified shootings, and their aftermath, in homes, schools, places of worship and in the streets as a threat to public health and safety. 

On May 15, a gunman killed one person and wounded five others at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California.

“We, the physicians, care teams, and staff of Kaiser Permanente, see firsthand the devastating aftermath of gun violence and bear witness to the intergenerational trauma that has both short- and long-term effects on physical and mental health,” the system wrote by statement.

Through the Kaiser Permanente Task Force on Firearm Injury Prevention, established in 2018, the system is also supporting research studies and testing firearm screening tools and counseling interventions that focus on how physicians and clinicians can help prevent firearm injuries.

Kaiser Permanente has pledged to partner with other health systems, public health authorities, community organizations and business leaders to address what it called a public health crisis.

“The most recent tragedies in Uvalde, Buffalo, and Laguna Woods compel us to take bold action to reduce the tragic toll of gun violence in America, and treat it as the public health crisis that it is,” the system wrote.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT

Several of the nation’s most prominent health system CEOs, and more than 1,300 healthcare professionals, sent a letter to Congressional leaders in July 2021 asking them to support President Biden’s plan to invest $5 billion in hospital- and community-based gun violence intervention programs.

The health professionals warned that gun violence poses a public health crisis equal to the COVID-19 pandemic, and requires the same vigorous response. Combined, the CEOs run health systems that employ more than 700,000 healthcare professionals.

IIn 2020, the U.S. experienced a record 43,559 firearms-related deaths and more than 39,000 additional injuries — and the nation was on pace last year to surpass that milestone, according to Gun Violence Archive. That’s more than the number of Americans who die from high blood pressure, malnutrition, HIV, Parkinson’s disease and viral hepatitis.

Like many of those diseases, gun violence disproportionately impacts communities of color. For example, gun violence is the leading cause of death for young Black men in America — accounting for more deaths than the next nine leading causes combined.

Many health systems are already taking steps to implement intervention programs. In some cities, as many as 45% of patients with a history of violent injury return with another injury within the next five years, according to Giffords Law Center. But programs dedicated to intervening at that juncture have shown success. An Hospital Based Violence Intervention Program in Baltimore, for example, saw the injury recidivism rate for patients fall to as low as 5%.

THE LARGER TREND

A 2017 study from Health Affairs shows firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S., having killed 36,252 people in 2015 alone, and they also levy a $2.9 billion dollar burden on hospitals annually.

And it’s not just hospital charges that mount as a result of firearm deaths and injuries. For those who live through it, there can be physical therapy, in-home care and trauma counseling needs, not to mention lost income. Because of that, authors said their results likely underestimate the true costs of these injuries. Estimates that attempt to take these other burdens into account swell to $45.6 billion in annual financial burdens resulting from firearm injuries.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: [email protected]



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