By Kathryn Ruscitto
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
It’s time to focus on solutions.
Every morning, as I read the news, there’s more and more reported gun violence. I’ve been reading — but not acting — for far too long, and I have to ask myself why. Gun violence is getting worse and more violent, and everyone involved suffers from this epidemic: the shooter, the victim, the families and the community members lost to death or incarceration.
In August, Syracuse police reported a 35% increase in those injured or killed by gunfire over the last year, from 81 individuals to 110.
Many of these deaths were among teenagers, and nationally, gun violence is now the leading cause of childhood death. The issue — which has become a political football — is clearly based on fact: Guns are causing deaths.
What are we going to do to reverse this trend? Many other public health threats, from smoking to driving under the influence to COVID-19, have prompted research and program interventions. They may have taken time, but slowly, progress was made and public health improved.
Many experts are concluding, similar to how infant mortality rates are viewed, that we have a deep societal problem on our hands, one that requires us to look closely at the social determinants feeding this crisis. Inherent racism in our systems, a proliferation and lack of controls on firearms, poverty, and lack of programming and resources for children are certainly factors.
Standing Up To Do Something
This epidemic needs a different kind of partnership to break through to faster results. Engaging the communities and the leaders closest to the problems, and listening to their recommendations for investment, often referred to as place-based decision-making, would help.
What is somewhat hopeful is the call to action building across the healthcare community with research, funding and best practice innovations.
Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, launched an initiative this summer called The Gun Violence Prevention Learning Collaborative for Health Systems and Hospitals, and 1,000 healthcare organizations and clinicians have joined the effort.
“This is about protecting people’s health. This is about protecting kids’ lives,” Dowling says. “Have some courage. Stand up and do something. Put the interest of the community in the center of what you think about each and every day.”
We each can contribute in ways that move the conversation forward. Discuss the issue with your family and social and professional organizations. Support funding for research and programming that keep children engaged and safe. Understand the social determinants and attitudes we can change in health care.
This issue won’t get better with hope alone. It requires outrage and action, as Dowling reminds the healthcare community.
“Our job is to save lives and protect people from illness and death,” he says. “Gun violence is not an issue on the outside — it’s a central public health issue for us. Every single hospital leader in the United States should be standing up and screaming about what an abomination this is.”
- Gun Violence Collaborative (youtube.com/watch?v=GUJG0CuPWCY)
- Every Town, Community Safety Fund (everytownsupportfund.org/how-everytowns-community-safety-fund-grantees-prevent-gun-violence/)
- Syracuse Cure Violence (smnfswcc.org/programs/snug/)