Older teens in urban areas are hospitalized for firearm injuries at higher rates than those in rural areas.
For younger children, however, the risk is greater in rural areas, according to the study “Rural versus Urban Hospitalizations for Firearm Injuries in Children and Adolescents,” (Herrin BR, et al. Pediatrics. July 2, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-3318).
Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine analyzed 2006, 2009 and 2012 data on children under 20 years from the Kids’ Inpatient Database. Their sample included 21,581 hospitalizations for firearm injuries. Six percent of patients died.
About 75% of those hospitalized were urban 15- to 19-year-olds. These teens were hospitalized at a rate of 31 per 100,000 people, nearly three times higher their rural peers.
More than two-thirds of urban 15- to 19-year-old firearm hospitalizations were for assault, which was eight times higher than in rural areas. Rural areas had slightly higher rates of self-inflicted firearm injuries for this age group.
Among 5- to 9-year-olds and 10- to 14-year-olds, firearm injuries were higher in rural areas and more likely to be unintentional regardless of location.
“With these findings, we suggest that a varied public health approach is needed to reduce firearm-related injuries in these different areas of the country,” authors wrote.
Efforts may include education campaigns, anticipatory guidance, violence prevention programs and increased access to mental health care.
In addition to undertaking these strategies, the Academy has been advocating for laws to protect children from firearm injuries, including safe storage requirements and background checks and age restrictions on gun purchases.
It recently launched the Gun Safety and Injury Prevention Research Initiative that will bring together experts from around the country to study and implement evidence-based interventions.