health care

ER doc calls for public health approach to gun violence

Posted 5/27/13

PROVIDENCE – Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician at Rhode Island Hospital, argued in a recent editorial that gun violence is a public health issue and needs to be addressed in the same way as other causes of injury.

The editorial, published in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine, said that physicians have been limited in their ability to make evidence-based recommendations when it comes to firearm violence due to federal bans on the research of the nature, causes and potential prevention of firearm injuries.

Since 1996, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been banned from using funds to research gun violence, and in 2011, this ban was extended to the National Institutes of Health, the federal government’s major granting agency for medical research.

Although these bans were lifted by President Obama’s executive order on Jan. 16, there is still a lack of appropriated money to do this research, according to Ranney.

“Emergency medicine physicians are on the front lines when it comes to gun violence,” Ranney said. “We are the first doctors to see these patients – the victims of gun violence -- and we see them every day. We therefore have a unique perspective on the issue.”

In her editorial, Ranney noted the irony that James Holmes, the alleged shooter in the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre, had received $21,600 from the National Institutes of Health to pursue his education. “Yet using that money to fund research that may have prevented the massacre would have been illegal.,” she wrote. “It simply doesn’t make sense.”

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