(Trends Wide) — Dr. Debra Houry found herself covered in blood too often.
As an ER doctor in the United States for about 20 years, Houry said it was “common” to treat young men in the ER for gunshot wounds. They would often “bleed out” on her as she revived them.
So he would look around the hospital for a clean white gown to put on “so that they would look respectable and presentable to talk to their families, or someone who survived but was paralyzed or had traumatic stress as a result,” Houry said. .
“That was heartbreaking.”
The rate of gun-related deaths in the United States appears to be getting worse.
The firearm homicide rate in the US in 2020 was the highest recorded since 1994, according to data released Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). where Houry currently serves as Acting Senior Deputy Director and Chief of the National Center for Injury Prevention.
Between 2019 and 2020, the overall firearm homicide rate increased about 35%, according to new data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“The COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated existing social and economic stressors that increase the risk of homicide and suicide, particularly among certain racial and ethnic communities,” the CDC researchers wrote in their report.
“Increases in persistently high firearm homicide rates and firearm suicide rates in 2020, with increases among populations that were already at high risk, have widened disparities and increased the urgency for actions that can have immediate and lasting benefits.
In 2020, 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides involved firearms, according to the CDC, which is somewhat higher than during the previous five years.
Gun homicides rise, suicide rates remain
CDC researchers examined data on firearm deaths from the agency’s National Vital Statistics Systems and National Center for Health Statistics, while poring over county-level data and data from the US Census Bureau on Poverty.
Researchers found that during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the highest-poverty U.S. counties had firearm homicide and suicide rates that were 4.5 and 1.3 times higher, respectively, than the lowest-poverty counties. level of poverty.
“For me it’s a great lesson,” Houry said. “Because if we are going to look at where to intervene, it is in many of these disadvantaged communities.”
From 2019 to 2020, the overall firearm homicide rate rose from 4.6 deaths to 6.1 deaths per 100,000 people nationwide, according to the new data. But that increase was not evenly distributed, revealing widening disparities in homicides.
The largest increases in 2020 were among black boys and men ages 10 to 44 and Native American or Alaska Native men ages 25 to 44, according to the data.
The CDC’s findings on the firearm homicide rate are consistent with the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report, released in September of last year.
FBI data shows a 29.4% increase in homicides between 2019 and 2020, the largest jump the agency has ever recorded. The report put the US murder rate at 6.5 per 100,000 people. The report also stated that homicides are increasingly carried out with firearms, stating that around 77% of reported homicides in 2020 were committed with a weapon, up from 74% in 2019. There is no database. of gun sales, but other independent studies found gun sales soared during the covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the overall rate of firearm suicide among people aged 10 and older remained nearly level between 2019 and 2020, rising only slightly from 7.9 to 8.1 deaths per 100,000 people, the researchers from the United States found. CDC in its new report.
“Although the overall rate of firearm suicide was relatively unchanged between 2019 and 2020, young people and some racial/ethnic minority groups experienced increases in firearm suicide,” the researchers wrote in their report.
The largest increase occurred among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, making the group have the highest firearm suicide rate as of 2020.
The data in the report does not include information on the specific type of firearms used. “Often that information is not included on the death certificate. When it is included, the most common type of firearm is a handgun,” said Thomas Simon, associate director for science in the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention. , to reporters during a call Tuesday.
“When I went to medical school, this was not talked about”
Gun violence is a “major public health concern,” Houry wrote in an opinion piece with Simon and Dr. Alexander Crosby, published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA.
In their article, they point out that physicians can play a role in discussing gun safety with patients, but medical schools often fail to incorporate gun safety, violence prevention, and the determinants of gun safety. social health in their curricula.
“When I went to medical school, this wasn’t something we talked about or were educated about. I didn’t start thinking about it until I saw its consequences,” Houry said.
As a medical school student in the late 1990s, Houry knew that gun violence was a problem in America. “But I don’t think I knew the magnitude and I don’t think I realized the personal impact it would have on me and my patients,” she said.
In their JAMA article, Houry and his colleagues refer to a survey of more than 1,000 family physicians, according to which almost half of the respondents, 46%, said they had not received training in the safety of the firearms, and nearly two-thirds, 68%, did not feel empowered to discuss secure firearm storage devices,
“But those who had received formal training were more likely to report a higher level of comfort with asking patients about gun ownership,” Houry said. “So for me, it’s about making sure clinicians understand their role and have the tools to act.”
“We have to figure out how to rid our society of conflict”
Communities can also use this new data on gun deaths to consider interventions to reduce violence.
“Child care subsidies can reduce stressors and prevent violence,” Houry said. “We’ve also funded research on greening initiatives where you can intervene and improve the appearance of a vacant lot by planting grass and trees. That’s been shown to reduce gun assaults by up to 29% in impoverished areas.” .
The CDC currently funds 18 two-year research projects on gun violence.
“With recent appropriations from Congress for the last two years, we’ve been able to fund 18 promising projects to study innovations to prevent gun violence,” Houry told reporters during a call Tuesday.
The rising murder rate in the United States is a worrying threat to the country’s public health, but it’s not surprising, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Trends Wide last year.
He stated that the increase in homicides has occurred in parallel with a recent increase in general violence, hatred, tensions, political divisions and anger shown by communities across the country.
“We’re seeing it literally before our eyes: at school board meetings and at public events,” Benjamin said.
“People seem to have lost all civility, and then you couple it with having to stay home, and being stressed about it, losing jobs, losing resources, fears for health, more guns,” he said. “I think we have to figure out how to free our society from conflict.”
— Brenda Goodman and Priya Krishnakumar contributed reporting.