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Two New Studies on Firearm Injuries May Improve Our Prevention Efforts :

March 29, 2021

Firearm injuries are a leading cause of death and injuries in children and adolescents.

Firearm injuries are a leading cause of death and injuries in children and adolescents. Since prevention efforts are key to reducing the incidence of these injuries, it is important to understand the sociodemographic factors that are associated with different types of firearm injuries as well as how accessible firearms might be in the homes of adolescents who may use them for self-harm or as an assault on others. To address these concerns, two studies are being early released this week in our journal.

The first of these studies by Patel et al (10.1542/peds.2020-011957) looked at differences in sociodemographic factors and outcomes of three different etiologies for a firearm injury—those resulting unintentionally from an intended assault on someone, and from an intent to self-harm. The authors share an analysis of a cross-sectional look at over 178,000 emergency department visits of youth under 21 years of age from 2009 to 2016 using the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample. The study identifies three unique risk profiles. Self-harm injuries were associated with older adolescents, higher socioeconomic status, rural hospital location, and back, brain spinal cord injury, or death. Unintended and assault-intended injuries had different sociodemographic factors as well as visit level characteristics and outcomes compared to the self-harm injuries. There is a lot of information worth learning about in this study as well as a discussion of prevention approaches one might consider based on the factors identified with these three different risk profiles.

The second study by Brooks-Russell et al (10.1542/peds.2020-015834) focused on the issue of access to firearms in the age group most likely to use a firearm to hurt others or themselves. Their focus was handgun access among high school students in Colorado in 2019 based on data obtained from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. This survey is used throughout the state and looks at health behaviors and factors that may increase the risk or protect from those behaviors occurring –in this case firearm access. The authors provide data on more than 46,500 students, among which one in five students self-report “sort of easy” or “very easy” access to a handgun. The authors identify and discuss why this figure is so high and also analyze the data for sociodemographic constructs that result in different risks of gaining handgun access based on location of schools, as well as age, gender, race, and ethnicity that are important to read about relative to considering your own practice setting and the adolescent patients you care for.

These two studies together not only provide strong evidence to find further ways to address access to firearms for children and adolescents but offer some preventive strategies you may not have considered or need to consider after you review these two studies and their implications for your community and the youth that live in it.

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