A new website shows doctors, nurses and other health care providers what they can do to stop gun violence.
What You Can Do, launched today by the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP), offers information and support for providers looking for ways to reduce firearm injury and death, particularly among patients at elevated risk.
“What You Can Do highlights the potential of a simple, focused intervention that health care providers can begin to implement today,” said Rocco Pallin, research analyst with the Violence Prevention Research Program, which has focused on conducting leading-edge research on the causes, consequences and prevention of violence for the past 30 years.
“By asking at-risk patients about firearms, counseling them on safe firearm behaviors, and taking further action when imminent hazard is present, providers can help to reduce risk of firearm injury and death,” she said.
The What You Can Do initiative seeks to mobilize a growing network of health care providers with increasing interest in their clinical role in firearm violence prevention. Though the initiative was conceptualized following the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, What You Can Do aims to support the prevention of all types of firearm injury and death.
“Providers have voiced two main messages since we began work on this initiative,” Pallin said. “They need accurate, up-to-date information on firearm injury — the epidemiology, the risk factors, the way to approach the topic with patients — in order to effectively counsel, and they need materials for patients. The new website responds to that first need by compiling existing research, resources and expert recommendations for evaluating firearm risk and counseling patients.”
The What You Can Do team hopes that providers find the site’s specific guidance on identifying patient risk factors, preparing an individualized approach to counseling, and opening the firearms conversation to be uniquely practical.
The team also has gathered an extensive list of firearms-related resources for providers on the site, including peer-reviewed research, links to firearm data, provider training opportunities and existing patient materials.
Pallin explained, “With What You Can Do, we’re building on what’s available for providers and patients regarding firearm risk and safety, and creating a resource that can be used by providers across states, specialties, and patient populations.”
“Health care providers have unique opportunities to identify and counsel high-risk individuals,” Pallin said. “Firearm injury and death are not random events. Well-recognized risk factors, both among those who commit and those who sustain firearm injury, bring high-risk individuals to health care providers, opening the door for targeted firearm injury prevention efforts.”
The Annals of Internal Medicine has supported the What You Can Do initiative by urging their colleagues to Take the Pledge and commit to talking about firearm safety with their at-risk patients. To date, more than 1,100 physicians have signed on.
The UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) is a multi-disciplinary program of research and policy development that assesses firearm violence and the connections between violence, substance abuse and mental illness. VPRP is home to the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center.