FIREARMS: SPECIAL JAMA ISSUE CONSIDERS PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT
"The annual violence report card from the American MedicalThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Association [AMA] gives the nation barely passing grades," CNN's
Holtz reported, referring to research published in the JOURNAL OF
THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION's (JAMA) annual issue on
violence as a public health threat. AMA President Dr. Lonnie
Bristow said, "Are we safer today than we were a year ago?
Sadly, the answer to that is no. ... the grade, regrettably, is
still a 'D.'" Emory University's Dr. Peter Ash noted that "while
adult homicide rates have been dropping, homicide rates among
youth have been going up, up, up." Researchers said they were
"surprised" to learn that many youths first obtain firearms when
they are as young as 11 or 12, CNN's Holtz reported ("Early
HOSPITAL IMPACT: One of the studies published in today's
JAMA examined "hospitalizations for firearm related injuries."
The study of 9,562 patients in California discharged with
firearm-related wounds found that 72% of the hospitalizations
were accounted for by males between the ages of 15 and 24 years
old. The study concluded that gun violence is "a major cause of
hospitalization of young urban black males and represents a
significant cost to publicly financed health care." The authors
also noted that the "impact on individual hospitals is highly
disproportionate" (Vassar/Kizer, 6/12 issue).
DATA IS KEY: A JAMA editorial recommends the creation of
"behavioral risk factor surveillance and hospital discharge data
systems" to provide public health officials with needed data on
"weapon characteristics, sources and patterns of use."
Such a system, according to JAMA, could help find "practical ways
to reduce firearm violence" because "better data and
dispassionate research may provide the impetus to effective
action." The editorial cites the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration's Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) as a
model for tracking gun violence. JAMA contends that data
collected through FARS has helped law enforcement and public
health officials target alcohol-related traffic accidents and
"product specific risks for injury" (Cook/Cole, 6/12 issue).
RESEARCH THREAT: An editorial in today's WASHINGTON POST
entitled "NRA: Afraid of the Facts," notes that the National
Rifle Association's (NRA) success in limiting research on firearm
violence today can be compared to what would have happened if the
"tobacco industry had succeeded, beginning 30 years ago, in
blocking any federal research into the medical dangers of
smoking." According to the POST, the "most important" research
on firearm violence is now being "coordinated" by the National
Center for Injury Prevention and Control, a division of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But POST writes that
"another NRA-backed assault" on the center's violence research
could come at a "key" appropriations subcommittee meeting today.
House Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee chair John
Porter (R-IL) "has stood up to the NRA before and ... intends to
back the center's budget today. Any other members with genuine
concern for the public health of America's young people will join
him," according to the POST (6/12).