The Influence of Gun Violence on Healthcare

The U.S. gun homicide rate is 26 times higher than that of other developed countries.

As I sat in a crowded auditorium for my oldest daughter’s eighth-grade promotion, I was struck with anxiety related to two factors. 

One, despite wearing a mask, I could not help but question if I was participating in a “super-spreader” event. And two, the topic of today’s story, I questioned if we were going to get shot. Dramatic, I know, but given the week’s news of mass shootings, I was preoccupied with anticipating my plan for an escape and counterattack should something happen, rather than fully enjoying my daughter’s milestone.

Historically, schools would practice emergency preparedness drills for weather; now most schools across the country include lockdown drills to prepare for gun violence, bomb threats, and the possibility of mass shootings. As evidence mounts of recent events in schools, like in Uvalde, Texas, where 21 were killed and 17 were injured, or the supermarket attack in Buffalo, New York, with 10 dead, or even the hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where four people were killed, with multiple people injured, I, like most, am heartbroken.   

In 2021, there were 692 mass shootings, as defined by four or more shooting victims stemming from the same event. Each year, on average, 3,500 children and teens are shot and killed, and more than 15,000 are shot and injured, according to Gun Violence Archive. At our current rate, about 110 people die each day from shootings, either by homicide or suicide. Our gun homicide rate is 26 times higher than that of other developed countries, and women are 28 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than women in other high-income countries.

Each of these victims becomes a patient of our healthcare system, and if they survive, have lasting physical and emotional medical needs that require care. These acts create ripple effects for communities, families, and the loved ones who are left behind. Reports from 2016 and 2017 noted estimated healthcare spending of $1 billion annually to support initial gun injury care. Each year there are an estimated 30,000 hospital stays and 50,000 ER visits because of gun incidents.

So where do we begin? The American College of Hospital Executives recommends addressing gun violence in our communities similar to any other means with which we would address any public health crisis: through education, collaboration, and engaging the local community members.  

So, I ask, do you think gun violence is also a healthcare issue? To learn how others have responded to the Monitor Mondays listener survey, click here.

Programming Note: Listen to Tiffany Ferguson live reporting on the SDoH every Monday on Monitor Mondays at 10 Eastern.

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Tiffany Ferguson, LMSW, CMAC, ACM

Tiffany Ferguson is CEO of Phoenix Medical Management, Inc., the care management company. Tiffany serves on the ACPA Observation Subcommittee. Tiffany is a contributor to RACmonitor, Case Management Monthly, and commentator for Finally Friday. After practicing as a hospital social worker, she went on to serve as Director of Case Management and quickly assumed responsibilities in system level leadership roles for Health and Care Management and c-level responsibility for a large employed medical group. Tiffany received her MSW at UCLA. She is a licensed social worker, ACM, and CMAC certified.

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