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Kaiser Permanente to Spend $2M on Gun Injury Research

Handgun and bullets

(Brett Hondow, Pixabay)

9 April 2018. The health care provider Kaiser Permanente plans to spend $2 million on research into preventing injuries and death from firearms, as well as begin an internal task force on firearm injury prevention. The organization with 12 million members serving 8 states and the District of Columbia gave no timeline for this initiative nor specific projects or studies it plans to undertake.

Kaiser Permanente says it expects to address preventable gun-related deaths and injuries from suicide, homicide, or accident with the same kind of research tools it applies to other health problems. Bechara Choucair, chief community health officer for Kaiser Permanente, says in a statement, “we will study interventions to prevent gun injuries the same way we study cancer, heart disease and other leading causes of preventable death in America.” Choucair adds that Kaiser Permanente’s preventive and specialized care is “accomplished, in part, by using rigorous research, without bias, to determine which strategies are effective.”

The organization, based in Oakland, California notes that in 2016-2017, it’s clinicians treated some 11,000 victims of gunshot wounds. A study published in the journal Preventive Medicine in October 2015 shows more than 67,000 people in the U.S. are injured by firearms each year, leading to more than 32,000 deaths. More than 60 percent of these firearm deaths are suicides. With the exception of suicides, males, racial or ethnic minorities, and younger people are more likely to be injured or killed by firearms than other groups.

The paper’s authors from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say both fatal and non-fatal injuries declined from 1993 to 1999, and across all types of intent. Between 2000 and 2012, unintentional deaths from firearms declined, but gun-related suicides and non-fatal firearm assaults increased. In addition, the authors estimate medical costs of treating firearm injuries and lost productivity totaled more than $48 billion. The researchers conclude firearm injuries and death are “an important public health problem in the United States,” and noted that “a science-driven approach to understand risk and protective factors and identify effective solutions is key to achieving measurable reductions in firearm violence.”

David Grossman, a pediatrician and researcher with the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, is the co-lead of Kaiser Permanente’s gun injury prevention task force. “Our mission,” says Grossman, “to improve the health of Kaiser Permanente members and the communities we serve, requires us to take preventive action.” The organization plans to disseminate its findings through peer-reviewed publications, as well as white papers and webinars.

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