Blog Violence & Abuse

Using a public health lens to respond to gun violence and trauma

Written by Olivia Pokoski, MPH candidate at University of Kentucky and participant in the 2019 Summer Research ProgramPublic & Global Health Track

Every day in the United States 96 lives are taken with guns, making it the second leading cause of death for American children and teens. Despite these staggering statistics, minimal responses have been made to combat gun violence at a national level.

In her talk to Summer Research Program students, speaker and Life Outside of Violence Project Manager, Kateri Chapman-Kramer suggested that gun violence be compared to a disease. Similar to disease, violence tends to cluster in specific places, in this case, specific neighborhoods in St. Louis. Diseases also travel by means of an agent or vector, with gun violence, that agent is the firearm.

Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program students and staff wear orange to support gun violence awareness.

Ideally, the country as a whole would benefit from nationwide interventions aimed at preventing gun violence. Though there isn’t currently a comprehensive approach for combating all gun-related injuries, St. Louis is home to several projects attempting to decrease its prevalence. One of these programs is entitled Life Outside of Violence (LOV). Launched by the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in August 2018, LOV aims to promote positive alternatives to violence. Chapman-Kramer is a huge advocate and the local coordinator for this project. It actively enrolls participants between the ages of 8 and 24 years old to help them find healthy ways to avoid getting involved in violence. Since this is a regional partnership between two health systems, three universities, and four hospitals, it has a greater chance of holistically approaching the problem of gun violence.

Looking at gun violence through a public health lens, we can examine the problem with a more streamlined approach. Since we have defined the problem and can identify risk and protective factors for gun violence, we should be developing and testing prevention strategies. St. Louis is finally making strides towards a solution through the different initiatives that are being proposed. However we need to continue the conversation if we truly want death rates to drop.

We can’t ignore the problem. We can’t forget to vote. We CAN end gun violence.

Read more about Live Outside of Violence!