June 13, 2017
1 min read

Pediatricians crucial to prevent firearm-related injuries in children

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Pediatricians are pivotal to reducing firearm injuries among children, particularly through patient and family inquiries regarding firearm access in household, as well as encouraging safe storage of household firearms, according to a review published in Hospital Pediatrics.

“While this preventable public health crisis occurs in the home, pediatricians who see children at a clinic or at hospitals can play a pivotal role in helping to reduce gun violence,” Kavita Parikh, MD, MSHS, from the hospitalist division at Children’s National Health System, said in a press release. “In the course of providing care, pediatricians can ask patients and their families about children’s access to firearms, can encourage safe storage of firearms in the home and can support research into firearm related injury prevention.”

Kavita Parikh, MD
Kavita Parikh

Researchers noted that the range of gun ownership varies significantly in the United States, with rates between 18% and 64%. Among the parents who own guns, 40% believe that their child is not aware of where firearms are stored within the house; however, 22% of parents incorrectly believe that their child has not handled a gun.

These numbers are crucial to the current statistics of gun violence and suicide, with more than 35,000 deaths reported from firearm-related injuries in 2015. Additionally, the review demonstrated that the cost of treating firearm injuries in those aged younger than 21 years was more than $330 million in 2010.

Parikh and colleagues provide several ways in which a pediatrician might be able to promote safe gun storage and safety in the home, with suggestions such as:

  • Discussing firearm access in the home with patients and their families
  • Encouraging safe storage practices
  • Supporting firearm-related injury prevention research

Other suggestions that the researchers have provided include legislation to prevent firearm-related injuries in children:

  • Promoting universal background checks
  • Advocating for child safety laws that decrease unintentional firearm deaths and suicides in youth

“Rigorous investigations, with the use of validated scoring systems, large comprehensive databases and accurate detailed reporting and surveillance of firearm access and related injury, are urgently needed,” Parikh and colleagues wrote. “Firearm research by the CDC has been limited by constant threats by Congress to reduce funding, and recent efforts to increase funding have been unsuccessful. A collective, data-driven public health approach is crucial to halt the epidemic of pediatric firearm-related injury.” — by Katherine Bortz

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.