Apply Public-Health Model to Help Reduce Gun-Related Deaths

By Kozachik, Steve | AZ Daily Star, March 11, 2014 | Go to article overview

Apply Public-Health Model to Help Reduce Gun-Related Deaths


Kozachik, Steve, AZ Daily Star


In the United States there are approximately as many firearms as inhabitants.

A study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association late last year reported that between 2007 and 2010 there were more than 121,000 firearm fatalities in the U.S., including more than 73,000 firearm suicides and more than 47,000 firearm homicides. Mortality rates resulting from most major causes of injury are decreasing. That is not true in the case of annual firearm fatalities.

Eighteen states have voluntarily joined the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). That is a database that is being gathered to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide decision makers with data to help address mortality rates associated with gun violence. The CDC uses a public-health approach to studying the data. It's about prevention and pragmatism, not dogma.

A public-health approach uses a four-step model for analyzing data. Those steps include: Defining the problem, identifying risk and protective factors, developing and testing prevention strategies, and finally, ensuring widespread adoption of effective programs. The focus is on prevention, as far upstream from the problem as is possible from a public-policy standpoint.

By way of example, a public-health approach was used to address motor-vehicle deaths. The analysis was not framed around "who" caused the death, but on "what factors" led to the deaths. Following data analysis , a variety of public-policy changes together have had an impact on the issue. Manufacturer's produce cars with collapsible steering columns, unlawful behavior is controlled by use of speed bumps, Botts' Dots appear along the side of highways to alert tired drivers when they veer off of the roadway. Through this multifaceted approach, the industry, the public sector and individual drivers mutually participated in affecting the problem.

The same can be done through application of the public-health model to gun-related deaths. …

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