Gun Violence and Health Equity

By Lee, Diana | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, April 5, 2018 | Go to article overview

Gun Violence and Health Equity


Lee, Diana, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Gun violence has become a crucial national problem that negatively affects health equity in the United States. The American Medical Association (AMA) has declared U.S. gun violence a public health crisis requiring a comprehensive public health response and solution. While we debate whether we need better gun control laws, or a more efficient way to implement current laws, Americans at large are affected by shootings, whether it is mass shootings or an individual being shot. No other country has the gun violence statistics that the United States has acquired in these last years.

What is health equity? It is the right that every individual has to a fair opportunity to live a long and healthy life. The implication is that health should not be compromised or disadvantaged because of an individual's or population group's race, ethnicity, gender, income, sexual orientation, neighborhood or other social condition. Health equity depends on creating fair opportunities for health and eliminating gaps in health outcomes between different social groups. It also requires that public health professionals look for solutions outside of the health care system, such as in the transportation or housing sectors, to improve the opportunities for health in communities.

The ultimate goal is to reduce and eliminate disparities in health and achieve the highest possible standard of health for all people, while providing special attention to the needs of those at greatest risk of poor health, based on social conditions.

The three main components of health equity identified by the World Health Organization are social determinants of health, health disparities and social justice. Gun violence is a problem that affects each component and creates negative health outcomes nationwide.

Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities--the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries, states, cities and communities.

A disproportionate number of gun homicides occur in urban areas. By contrast, a disproportionate number of firearm suicides occur in rural areas. Although highly publicized, less than 2 percent of the homicides of children occur in schools.

Health disparity is a particular type of health difference that is closely linked to economic, social or environmental disadvantage. …

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