Gun violence research, policies need physician voice

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In the challenging gun policy dialogue, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and from the University of California, Davis, are calling for more physician engagement.

"Physicians are an important source of information for the public and a valued constituency for policymakers," Shannon Frattaroli, associate professor at Johns Hopkins, said in an announcement from UC Davis. "They are uniquely poised to be at the forefront of gun violence prevention efforts."

Frattaroli and UC Davis physician Garen Wintemute outlined five strategies that highlight the physician's role in the gun violence issue in an Annals of Internal Medicine commentary.

The doctor is a clinician, in which he or she can ensure mental health treatment is available to prevent suicide gun deaths and support policies limiting gun purchases to at-risk individuals. The doctor also plays a role in managing fear; as a researcher, helping ensure money is appropriated for violence prevention research; and as a policy advocate, where physicians can be heard together to influence Congress in new policies. Lastly, the physician plays a role as a leader.

"Most people who die from gunshot wounds do so at the shooting site and never make it to the hospital. More or better treatment is unlikely to yield the greatest reductions in gun deaths," Wintemute said in the announcement. "Gun violence is a public health problem requiring a greater emphasis on prevention. Physicians, on behalf of their patients and their communities, can add much to the current policy discussions."

In the aftermath of December 2012's horrific Sandy Hook school shooting, physicians spoke out on gun violence, sharing passionate opinions about how to reduce shootings. Their articles appeared in several medical journals. As FiercePracticeManagement reported in January, editors of the Annals of Family Medicine called for physicians to make a resolution to put more time and effort into addressing the public health threat of gun violence. Commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine advocated for tightened gun control laws and a call to policymakers to remove federal restrictions on gun violence research, in addition to investing in more resources into identifying mental illness.

To learn more:
- read the announcement from UC Davis
- read the study in the Annals of Family Medicine

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