Rebecca Cunningham, MD, FACEP
Among children in the United States, firearm-related fatalities are the second leading cause of death and Emergency Physicians have long been on the front line and at the front of firearm injury prevention efforts. Such preventable injuries include the unintentional shooting of a toddler who finds a gun, the use of a firearm to self-inflict harm by a suicidal teen, the escalation of fighting or dating violence, or more recently by an adolescent as part of a tragic school shooting.
Research and training in the field of firearm injury prevention needs to be substantially increased to develop evidence-based solutions to prevent and reduce firearm injury. There is a current deficit of data-driven solutions. Reducing firearm-related deaths requires an injury prevention science. Although the problem is complex, if we apply injury prevention science the same way we have for car crash preventions and deaths over the years, we will reduce the deaths caused by firearm violence.
To address this need, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded $5 million to two emergency physicians at the University of Michigan, Drs. Cunningham (project PI and Former chair of ACEP trauma and Injury section) and Carter (Current TIPS Chair), along with Dr. Marc Zimmerman to lead the team of more than 25 researchers at 14 universities and health systems across the nation. The award represents the largest NIH funding commitment in the past 20 years to reduce firearm injury.
Emergency Medicine collaborators also include Dr. Ranney (Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University), Hargarten (Medical College of Wisconsin), and PEM collaborators Dr. Goyal (Children’s Hospital of Chicago/Northwestern University) and Dr. Alpern (Children's National Health System). The consortium brings together expertise from many fields including scientists from public health, adult and pediatric emergency medicine, pediatrics, criminal justice, psychiatry, psychology, data science and trauma surgery. The five-year effort allows the collaborators, along with stakeholder partners, to form a consortium on research on the subject and fill a critical knowledge gap.
The Firearm-safety Among Children & Teens Consortium (FACTS) also includes stakeholder groups that are an important asset to the academic conversation and include gun owners and firearm safety trainers, educators and law enforcement partners, including teachers, parent groups and hunting and sports enthusiasts. The consortium respects gun ownership as an important part of the cultural fabric of our society in this country and having a stakeholder group that has a wide variety of political views and is providing input along the way is invaluable to our joint goals of preventing firearm injury and death among children.
FACTS has been busy in the past two years since its inception. The FACTS team has conducted a comprehensive review of the existing literature on pediatric firearm injury prevention, publishing four scoping reviews in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. The literature review led to a structured Nominal Group Technique process to define the state of the current research and priorities for conducting research over the next 5-10 years in this field. This research agenda was recent published in JAMA Pediatrics. The Consortium has also actively trained three post-doctoral researchers, as well as numerous master’s students from the fields of public health, criminology, law, and medicine. Researchers as part of the Consortium have also been working on pilot projects to develop preliminary data to enhance future research in the field of pediatric firearm injury prevention. This fall, FACTS will hold its first national research conference on the state of the science at the University of Michigan on October 21st. Conference presentations will be live-streamed and archived on the website for interested students, residents, and clinicians.
To learn more about all the great work that is going on as part of the FACTS Consortium, visit the website (www.childfirearmsafety.org) and learn more about this on-going project to build much needed capacity in firearm injury prevention.
FACTS: Building Research Capacity for Firearm Safety Among Children is project number R24HD087149 and funded by the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. PI Cunningham/ Zimmerman