The recent shooting deaths of Dr. Tamara O’Neal (emergency physician), Dayna Less (pharmacy resident), and Samuel Jimenez (police officer) at Mercy Hospital in Chicago mark yet another gun-related tragedy in a not-so-subtle epidemic which grips our country. As a practicing emergency physician for 25 years before becoming a healthcare executive, I am perplexed and exasperated that our society sidesteps an ever-increasing public health threat by stifling the research and scientific study it deserves.
Gun violence comes in many forms. It may be criminal in nature (assault, homicide, suicide, attempted suicide) or non-criminal (accidental, unintentional injury or death). Regardless of the form it takes, gun violence in the United States has reached an astonishing level. A new study published in The American Journal of Medicine reports that Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries.
In addition to the deaths, disabilities, and the physical and emotional anguish this epidemic delivers, the negative economic impact to our society by gun violence is estimated to approach $230 billion a year.
While there is wide disagreement as to why we experience out-of-proportion gun violence, our inability as a nation to study and discuss it as a public health threat is inexcusable. For organizations that advocate treating gun violence as a public health issue to be told to “stay in their lane” is both myopic and obstructionist.
A 1996 congressional appropriations bill included what has become known as the “Dickey Amendment.” This stipulated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” This amendment, along with other similar restrictions, has suppressed meaningful scientific research on gun violence as a healthcare issue. Jay Dickey himself, the sponsor of this bill, regretted his role in this amendment before his death.
It is time to repeal the Dickey Amendment.
It is time to study gun violence as a public health threat and allow science to inform policy.
It is time for elected officials and community leaders to have meaningful and courageous discussions addressing this epidemic.
It is time for the Illinois Hospital Association and other healthcare professional organizations to advocate for meaningful research of gun violence as a healthcare priority.
It is time.
Dr. Michael J. Born is president and CEO at SwedishAmerican, a Division of UW Health. The opinion expressed is personal and not reflective of SwedishAmerican.
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via Rockford Register Star
November 24, 2018 at 04:59PM