Jul 22, 2021 - Health

Hospital systems to Congress: "Enough is enough" on gun violence

Illustration of a red cross composed of handguns.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

More than a dozen CEOs of major health systems sent a letter to Congressional leaders Wednesday calling for support of President Biden's proposal to fund $5 billion in hospital and community-based gun violence intervention programs.

Why it matters: The letter from some of the top health systems in the country — including CommonSpirit Health, RWJBarnabas Health, Sanford Health and Intermountain — comes as gun violence reaches critical levels.

  • In 2020, there were a record 43,559 firearms-related deaths and more than 39,000 additional injuries recorded. The country on pace to surpass records again this year.

The goal is “keeping the pressure on Washington” Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health told Axios.

The big picture: Health care professionals have become increasingly vocal on the lack of tools to address the growing number of victims affected by gun violence in hospitals every day.

  • Many health systems are trying to implement their own intervention programs or apply for federal funding to research root causes of gun injuries.
  • 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 the letter to Congress.

Context: Gun violence is the least researched of the 30 leading causes of death, largely because Congress had banned such research.

  • But $25 million was made available last year, which caused a flood of interest among scientists and researchers to study gun injury research.

What they're saying: Dowling hopes his messaging on gun violence as a public health issue will get more of a collaborative effort with the public and lawmakers than years of divisive talks on gun control.

  • "Our stance from the health care industry is firearm injuries, no different than COVID-19, is not a political issue," Chethan Sathya, pediatric surgeon and the director of Northwell’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention, tells Axios.
  • "This is a combination of enough is enough, they want the violence to stop. They want unnecessary firearm injuries to stop," he added.
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