Lauren Gatta

A new joint Yale–University of Pennsylvania study found that there is an extreme lack of violence intervention services for victims of gun-related violence.

Published in JAMA Surgery on Jan. 23, the collaborative effort by Yale and Penn researchers used data concerning firearm injuries treated at emergency departments in the United States from 2009 to 2014 to reach this conclusion.

“Our study suggests that only 20 percent of all firearm injury victims are eligible for receiving any prevention services,” said Edouard Coupet, professor at the Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

There were nearly half a million firearm encounters treated at emergency departments in the United States from 2009 to 2014, Coupet said. The researchers stratified these incidents based on the cause: assault, accident or self-harm.

Coupet noted that the research team also specified whether the injuries were treated at a trauma center or a nontrauma center. Next, they observed whether the patients being treated were transferred to another hospital; were admitted, treated and discharged within the same hospital; or died in the hospital.

According to Coupet, the study found that only about 20 percent of the firearm injuries were assault injuries in which the patients were admitted to trauma centers. Coupet said that this is significant because under the current health care model, only assault injury victims admitted to trauma centers qualify for hospital-based violence intervention programs.

“These findings speak to the fact that we need to expand our current model beyond the intervention programs offered to assault victims at trauma centers,” he said. “We need to include all those patients discharged from trauma centers and also from nontrauma centers.”

Kit Delgado, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and co-author of the study, said that the health care system needs to redirect intervention strategies and also include unintentional firearm injuries in its scope. The next step is to understand how to develop counselling and safe storage strategies for unintentional firearm injuries, he said. According to Delgado, the devices for safe storage of guns, such as gun locks, would be highly effective at reducing unintentional firearm injuries.

In 2016, the United States witnessed 38,658 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ishana Aggarwal | ishana.aggarwal@yale.edu