Steve Love: Gun Violence – A Public Health Crisis

After the May 6 shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas, we realize that achieving public health is never easy. It is still a tenuous combination of medicine, epidemiology, sociology, psychology, criminology, education and economics.

Three important advances in public health over the past 100 years include clean water, sanitation and vaccines. Another recent public health initiative was driver safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, a national focus on traffic safety from 1967 to 2017 resulted in an 80% reduction in the number of driving fatalities per mile.

Steve Love (Courtesy of DFWHC)

These initiatives were created to protect our residents across the country, if not the world. Sometimes people confuse health care with public health. Health care is the prevention and treatment of a medical condition affecting individuals. Public health is the intervention and prevention of a major crisis impacting our population.

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified gun violence as a serious public health concern for our population. According to the CDC, firearm-related incidents in 2020 were among the top five causes of death among people ages 1 to 44 and the top cause of death among children and teens. The CDC has established a four-step process for dealing with this public health crisis to include defining the problem, identifying risk factors, developing strategies, and then adopting a policy broadly.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has found that the United States leads all major economically stable countries in firearm deaths of children and adolescents ages 1-19. On a per capita basis, the firearm death rate among children and adolescents was seven times that of our neighbors in Canada. This is a deeply troubling statistic given that Canada ranks far behind on this list. KFF also reported that the United States is the only country among its peers to have seen an increase in the number of gun deaths over the past two decades. Call gun violence for what it is: an epidemic.

It’s time for a call to action. We need to fund extensive research and data analysis. According to the CDC, this growing crisis is not only due to the recent spate of near-weekly mass shootings, but more than half of all suicides in the United States are gun-related. Gun safety should be a top priority for everyone, especially our municipal, state and federal governments. We cannot afford to wait any longer. This is a public health crisis that is claiming American lives every day.

Let’s work together now to start this conversation with the same tenacity we once had for water, sanitation, vaccines and road safety.

Steve Love is CEO and Chairman of the DFW Hospital Council, a 90-member group that brings together North Texas hospitals and industry leaders.

Steve Love: Gun Violence – A Public Health Crisis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top