Researchers have found that the majority of adults surveyed find it appropriate for their physicians to speak with them about firearms.
“Recognizing that education from health care providers may help reduce unsafe storage practices, many medical and public health organizations have advocated firearm safety counseling by health care providers, especially when there are children or teens at home or when a patient is at risk for harm to self or others,” Marian E. Betz, MD, MPH, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, and colleagues wrote. “However, health care providers do not seem to routinely discuss firearms with patients, even when the providers believe that such discussions are important... Our study [describes] the perceived appropriateness of firearm discussions between health care providers and patients.”
The researchers used a national sample to estimate whether adults found it appropriate for their physicians to openly discuss firearms with them. In April 2015, they conducted a probability-based survey online, which asked participants, “In general, would you think it is never, sometimes, usually, or always appropriate for physicians and other health professionals to talk to their patients about firearms?” The survey included answers from 3,914 U.S. English-speaking adults. The survey also assessed factors such as firearm ownership, storage, use, presence of children in the home, and firearm safety training, among others.
The researchers found that 66% of the participants (95% CI, 63-69) answered that it is at least sometimes appropriate for providers to discuss firearms with their patients. Of this group, 23% (95% CI, 20-25) said it is always appropriate, 14% (95% CI, 11-16) said it is usually appropriate, and 30% (95% CI, 27-33) said it is sometimes appropriate. Responses varied by firearm ownership, with about two-thirds of non-firearm owners finding it appropriate compared with approximately half of firearm owners.
“To our knowledge, our study provides the first national estimates among adults in the United States of the acceptability of health care provider discussions about firearms,” Betz and colleagues wrote. “Partnerships with stakeholders who are knowledgeable about firearm safety — as well as involvement by both gun-owning and non–gun-owning providers — offer potential to advance foundational knowledge about the observed heterogeneity in views and to improve the content, acceptability, and effectiveness of firearm safety counseling.” – by Rafi Naseer
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.