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Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Posted on 21 Feb 2017 by Goldfarb Team

In January, Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College hosted a screening of the documentary, “Newtown,” which chronicles the aftermath of the mass shooting of 20 elementary school children and six educators in that Connecticut town on Dec. 14, 2012. Following the screening, a panel of health care and community professionals shared views on how gun violence has emerged as a public health crisis. The panelists also provided suggestions on how health care professionals and community constituents could work together to help reduce violence and improve the quality of life in St. Louis.  

Dr. Kathleen Thimsen, assistant professor at Goldfarb School of Nursing, moderated the panel. Panel guests included:

Panelists outlined how community members can work together to help reduce extreme gun violence, like the mass shooting at Newtown, as well as day-to-day gun violence in all communities.

  • Early intervention. If you know and understand the warning sign(s) of violence, you can intervene and get help for potential perpetrators of violence.
  • Spread awareness. Help increase awareness of programs, services and resources related to community violence that are available to the general public.
  • Research and prevention. Viewing gun violence as disease opens up the conversation of how to treat gun violence as a public health crisis. With more public health research to identify what causes someone to act out violently, health care professionals could help reduce the impact of gun violence through prevention. Research efforts are in place to improve understanding of chronic exposure to violence and toxic stress on the physical and psychological health of communities. Health care professionals equipped to understand the link between stress and illness are better prepared to provide holistic care that improves outcomes.
  • Listen and have a conversation. Nurses and other health care professionals have unique opportunities to engage their patients. Being open to hearing a patient’s story could allow you to help a victim or someone who may be inclined towards violence. 
  • Understanding your patient. Take time to understand a patient’s physiological perspectives on health by improving your understanding and use of Trauma Informed Care across clinical practice.
  • Join professional organizations. Know what your profession is doing when it comes to gun violence and other topics that impact your profession and community.
  • Use your resources. There are a lot of resources available about gun violence. Ask your employer for materials to help you talk with patients about gun violence. If materials aren’t available, reach out to fellow health care workers for additional resources.  You can also visit the Institute for Public Health at Washington University’s Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis project website for news, funding opportunities and resources.
  • Get involved. Attend an event on this topic, read a blog, go to a rally. Stay connected and be aware of how you as a health care professional can help reduce gun violence.
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