Guns are the leading cause of death for kids and 13 children die from guns every day nationwide. To encourage parents to take action and become part of the solution by asking about gun safety, Northwell Health, New York State’s largest health system, created a print, broadcast and digital public awareness campaign and has encouraged other health systems to share the campaign’s message with their communities across America.
More than one thousand hospitals and health associations, including the American Hospital Association, Children’s Hospital Association and The Catholic Health Association of the United States, have joined this gun safety movement.
By asking about safe gun storage, the campaign is meant to help parents and caretakers feel empowered to ask other parents about access to guns. Broadcast, print and digital public service messages and a website, highlight that access to unlocked guns can lead to death, suicide and gun violence, making it more likely that children die from guns than cancer or automobile accidents. The website provides tips on how to have a conversation with other parents about safely stored firearms and encourages parents and caregivers to normalize this conversation.
“Much like you ask the parent of your child’s friend about food allergies, or if there is a pool, you should also ask if there is a gun in the home,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health. “Health systems, including Northwell Health, understand that gun violence is a public health crisis and one way we can all contribute to curbing the crisis is prevention. It starts by asking the question.”
To view collaborating health systems and associations, or to join the movement, visit HospitalsUnited.com.
Northwell Health, for the past five years, has made gun violence prevention a priority by helping educate, inform and spark change. These efforts include:
- Establishing The Gun Violence Prevention Center to develop best practices for hospitals and form a national coalition of healthcare leaders to depolarize gun safety.
- Convening in 2019 its first Gun Violence Prevention Forum. The next forum aims to mobilize the collective efforts of leading executives, clinicians, researchers, and policymakers around gun violence as a public health emergency.
- Forming The Gun Violence Prevention Learning Collaborative, a grassroots initiative that gives health care professionals the space to have dialogue, share best practices and take action.
- Securing a $1.4 million National Institutes of Health grant to study gun violence prevention and establish and implement a first-of-its-kind protocol to universally screen among those at risk of firearm injury. The ongoing research study is entitled “We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue.”
- Installing an AI-based touchless weapon detection system across our hospitals to promote and sustain a safe environment for team members, providers, patients and visitors.
“As pediatric trauma surgeons we see the firsthand carnage that bullet wounds cause to a child, so if we can do everything in our power to encourage folks to store their weapons at home safely – meaning storing firearms locked, unloaded, and separately from ammunition – it’s absolutely worth it,” said Chethan Sathya, MD, director of Northwell Health’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention. “We know that unsecured firearms in the home significantly increase the risk of firearm-related suicide, unintentional injury and homicide, yet right now 4.6 million kids in the United States live with an unlocked and loaded gun in their home. If we can reduce that statistic and better protect our children and family members by asking a question and starting a dialogue, let’s do it.”
Visit HospitalsUnited.com or Northwell.edu/lock-guns for more information.