Thursday, January 31st, 2013
An editorial in the New York Times suggests this is so in relation to gun control issues and the devastating losses of young lives that we continue to witness, the most recent being the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. The crux of the argument is that we need to consider the seemingly endless stream of senseless murders (from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Aurora to Newtown) from the perspective of public health – meaning we need to treat this like an epidemic and rectify all the gaps in knowledge that currently exist about guns and violence. I couldn’t agree more.
This month, I used the public health framework to discuss our knowledge base on the four central issues we have all been discussing in relation to Sandy Hook:
Violent Video Games
The conclusion each time was that we really are pretty ignorant about how these factors come together to lead an individual to murder innocent youth. What we need now is to start asking pointed questions in research designed to help us arrive at meaningful next steps that would reduce the likelihood of these heinous acts taking innocent lives – based on reputable data and not just rhetoric or philosophy. That’s what public health research does – plain and simple, it identifies factors that can be modified to prevent the probability of death, and conducts scientific tests to generate an empirical foundation for making decisions that impact the problem. Studies showed that seatbelts save lives – we require use of seatbelts. Studies showed that teens who text when driving are at increased risk for getting killed – we ban texting. We don’t know right now the relative mix of influence posed by mental health issues, access to guns, and exposure to violent video games – and we need the studies to sort that out rather than pitting one factor against the other in a philosophical game of chess that does nothing to improve school safety. Public health is agnostic – just get answers and act on them. If we don’t take that principle seriously, then yes, ignorance is killing our kids.
Epidemiology and Public Health via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Intervention, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories | Tags: Aurora, Columbine, Gun Control, Health, Kids Health, Mental Health, Newtown, public health, Sandy Hook Elementary, School Safety, Violent Video Games, Virginia Tech
Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
Even in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, there are few topics more polarizing than gun control. But from the perspective of public health, I would hope everyone would agree that we have an urgent need to make children’s lives safer than they are right now.
Let’s look at some numbers. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Children’s Defense Fund generated the following statistics:
In 2008, 2,947 children and teens were killed by guns
In 2009, 2,793 children and teens were killed by guns
The majority (about 2/3) were homicide related; around 1/4 were due to suicide; and around 5% were accidental deaths.
If you peruse the CDC site – specifically the section on Injury Prevention and Control – you will note a few key points:
Injuries are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for individuals between 1 and 44 years old
3/4 of all deaths of young people are due to injuries – with homicide being the 2nd leading cause of death for 15-24 year-olds (motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause)
As noted by the CDC, in principle all the deaths due to injuries are preventable. While this goal is not achievable (we live in an unpredictable world), the public health perspective is to do everything we can to reduce the probability of injury and death. For example, with respect to motor vehicle accidents, we focus on a number of issues, including: enforcing speed limits; requiring safety belts; trying to ensure that babies, toddlers and kids are secured as safely as possible in motor vehicles; trying to prevent drinking and driving. We also take on new topics when they emerge, like the very real public health issues that have been raised in more recent years by cell phone use (including, of course, texting) in motor vehicles. Why am I belaboring this example? Because I don’t think many of us find the attempts to reduce mortality due to motor vehicle accidents to be controversial. It’s a public health issue – motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in youth, so we have to try to find ways to reduce that morbidity. In the same way, we all can take as a starting point the need to reduce mortality attributable to firearms.
Now, I’m not here to resolve the issue – far from that. There’s plenty to debate, and to do this in a real way, we will need to consider a lot of perspectives. What has concerned me is the tendency we all have to polarize an issue – even in the face of the devastating tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary – because it typically leads to no action at all. It’s not all about guns – or not at all about guns. It’s that grey area in between where we have to deal with the realities of how we will take on the firearms issue to try to make the world safer for our kids. Whether you are philosophically for or against gun control, reducing mortality due to firearms is a public health issue, and a part of the equation, as are other factors – including bringing a similar lens to mental health:
Sandy Hook Aftermath: Mental Health As A Public Health Issue
Epidemiology and Public Health via Shutterstock.com
Categories: Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories | Tags: centers for disease control and prevention, firearms, Gun Control, Health, homicide, Kids Health, public health, Sandy Hook Elementary, Sandy Hook Shooting