I’m a pediatrician. A primary care physician. I see the value of preventing injuries and illnesses and prefer prevention over intervention. Prevention is basically pain-free and cheap and overall the positive position: it makes you feel good! On the other hand, intervention usually involves pain and money (or good insurance), and can have some real, negative side effects that can make you feel bad.
Positive vs. negative. Feeling good and being able to be active vs. feeling bad and not being able to do things. Spending time and money on things for me vs. spending time and money on health care.
Yeah, I like prevention better! Maggie Fox has a perfect project for prevention:
Having guns in the home triples the risk of suicide and doubles the risk of homicide, researchers reported on Monday.
Their review of 15 studies considered high quality confirms a clear association between gun ownership and violent death in the United States, where more than a third of the population owns firearms.
Linda Carroll has some pediatric statistics from a new study published in Pediatrics last week:
Injuries from firearms send more than 7,000 kids to the hospital annually, an average of 20 per day. Among those admitted to the hospital, 6 percent die from their injuries, according to the study published in Pediatrics Monday.
“That’s more than 7,000 children injured badly enough to be hospitalized,” said Dr. John Leventhal, the study’s lead author and a professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine. “All are unnecessary hospitalizations because preventing gun violence is something that can actually be done.”
In addition to children hospitalized for gun injuries, another 3,000 die before they can make it to the emergency room, meaning guns hurt or kill about 10,000 American children each year, Leventhal said.
Prevention should be easy, right? After all, wouldn’t it be great to prevent at least some of the 31,000 deaths from firearms that occur in the United States annually? This country leads the world in firearm-related suicides. We’re number one among developed nations in firearm-related murders. We already have immunization programs to prevent death from disease, laws to prevent death from contaminated food and dangerous chemicals and foul air and texting in cars; and common-sense understandings of not smoking in bed, or not yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater. We Americans take so many measures to prevent ourselves from dying premature (and ugly) deaths. So why is there a line drawn with firearm safety? Fox again:
It’s a touchy subject — gun rights activists say they suspect researchers want to restrict gun ownership. Congress has restricted federal funding of gun research, while President Barack Obama has explicitly instructed federal health agencies to start doing it again. Some groups, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, have also lobbied in favor of more research on gun violence.
Michelle Healy spoke to one of the authors of the Pediatrics study:
In the absence of such research, [Robert] Sege says, the best advice is to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that “the safest home for children and teens is one without guns,” and if there are guns in the home, they should be “stored unloaded and locked, with the ammunition locked away in a separate place.”
We’re just talking about research. Getting some facts.
We’re talking about prevention, but that’s a hard discussion when there are few facts. I guess that’s the point.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are so many injuries and deaths — and so many tragedies involving children — related to firearms. What is surprising (to me, at least) is that we, as a “first world” society, tolerate it.
More PediaBlog on firearm safety here.