Kaiser Permanente announced that it is investing $2 million to research gun violence in the hopes of abating gun injuries and death.
"Going forward, we will study interventions to prevent gun injuries the same way we study cancer, heart disease and other leading causes of preventable death in America," says Bechara Choucair, MD, Kaiser Permanente's chief community health officer. "The best-in-class preventive and specialized care Kaiser Permanente provides is accomplished, in part, by using rigorous research, without bias, to determine which strategies are effective."
Choucair is also co-leader of the new Kaiser Permanente Task Force on Firearm Injury Prevention. This clinician-guided research team aims to identify evidence-based tools that can guide clinical and community prevention efforts.
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In 2016, firearm-related injuries claimed over 30,000 lives in America. Kaiser Permanente physicians and nurses treated more than 11,000 victims of gunshot wounds in 2016 and 2017 the system said.
The move falls in line with the growing demand for gun violence research and prevention, especially following the tragic school shooting in Parkland Florida that killed 17 people, many of them students. The last few years have seen other mass shootings as well, including the shooting in Las Vegas last October that killed 59 people and the Pulse NIghtclub shooting which took the lives of 49 people. Countless others were injured or affected by the incidents.
The American Medical Association has declared gun violence a public health crisis, and an editorial in JAMA this past fall once again made that declaration, saying that while the focus on tragic mass shootings like Las Vegas tend to pull the country's focus, it is important to remember that almost 100 people die daily from gun violence.
Health Affairs research has also shown the multi-faceted impact of gun violence including recent findings that firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, resulting in 36,252 fatalities in 2015 alone and imposing a $2.9 billion dollar burden on hospitals annually.
Elizabeth McGlynn, Vice President for Kaiser Permanente Research, said it will make the research publicly available, share findings and implement and spread best practices through webinars, white papers and peer-reviewed publications.