“Combatting Gun Violence as a Public Health Crisis: Insights from Steve Love”

After the May 6th shooting at an Allen, Texas mall, the task of public health has become even more complex. It involves a combination of medicine, epidemiology, sociology, psychology, criminology, education, and economics. Over the last century, three key advances in public health were clean drinking water, sanitation, and vaccines. In recent years, driver safety has also been a major public health initiative. Thanks to the nation’s focus on highway safety from 1967 to 2017, driver fatalities per mile decreased by 80 percent.

Although people often confuse medicine with public health, they are not the same. While medicine focuses on preventing and treating medical conditions affecting individuals, public health aims to intervene and prevent major crises affecting the population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently identifies gun violence as a major public health concern for the nation. According to the CDC, firearm-related incidents are the fifth leading cause of death for people ages 1-44 in 2020, and the leading cause of death among children and teens.

The CDC has established a four-step process to address this public health crisis, including defining the problem, identifying risk factors, developing strategies, and broadly applying policies. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that the United States leads all large, economically secure countries in firearm deaths for children and teens ages 1 to 19. Firearm mortality among children and teens in the United States was seven times higher than that of neighboring Canada, which is very concerning.

To combat gun violence, extensive research and data analysis need to be funded. According to the CDC, over half of all suicides in the United States are gun-related. Gun safety should be a top priority for cities, states, and federal governments. This is a public health crisis that threatens American lives every day, and action needs to be taken immediately. Let’s start a dialogue with the same tenacity we once did for clean drinking water, sanitation, vaccines, and highway safety.

Steve Love is the CEO and Chairman of the DFW Hospital Council, a 90-member group that connects North Texas hospitals and industry leaders. He believes that gun violence is an epidemic that needs to be addressed through a broad public health approach.

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