Magazine article The Nation's Health

Public Health Taking Stronger Approach to Gun Violence: APHA, Brady Team Up on Prevention

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Public Health Taking Stronger Approach to Gun Violence: APHA, Brady Team Up on Prevention

Article excerpt

PUBLIC HEALTH advocates can agree that shootings are a huge health issue, considering the more than 33,000 deaths from gun violence in 2014 alone. But gun violence also indicates community-wide health issues, according to researchers.

To a packed crowd at a session at APHA's 143rd Annual Meeting and Exposition, advocates from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and other public health fields gathered to discuss how to create a public health movement to address gun violence. The tools are already in place, but much work still needs to be done, as 11 children are killed with a gun every day in the U.S., said David Hemenway, professor of Health Policy and Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and APHA member.

Violence begets violence, noted epidemiologist and APHA member Gary Slutkin, MD, but communities can do their parts to mitigate violence. It will take looking at gun violence in new ways--as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue, he said.

"Criminal justice reform won't be enough," Slutkin said. "(We need to) go harder at prevention, harder at understanding, harder at care."

The session touched on many points the Brady Campaign has been touting for years, including at its National Summit with APHA in October in Washington, D.C. The partnership between APHA and the Brady Campaign was facilitated in large part by APHA's Maternal and Child Health Section's Gun Violence Prevention Committee, and grew from a joint forum held in March last year. Dan Gross, the campaign's president, led the charge on the organization's three key points, calling for policymakers to:

* finish the job of expanding "lifesaving Brady background checks" to all gun sales in the U.S.,

* stop "bad apple" gun dealers and

* "ASK," part of Asking Saves Kids, or asking families if guns are in their homes before allowing kids to play there.

"This is a new day for the gun violence issue," Gross told attendees at the summit. "The tipping point for our issue has finally arrived. The American public, everyone, is finally coming together to say, 'enough.'"

Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA, said it is time to address gun violence from a prevention approach, rather than responding to violence after the fact. During the summit, Benjamin called on all sectors to join the public health community in partnering for stronger prevention models and practice.

"I think we need a private, privately funded research initiative to help us answer a lot of these questions as we go forward so we can be more data-driven," he said. …

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