American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Executive Summary

Proceedings from the Medical Summit on Firearm Injury Prevention

Chicago, IL

In collaboration with 43 leading professional organizations in the United States, the American College of Surgeons hosted a historic Medical Summit on Firearm Injury Prevention in February 2019. The leadership of these organizations came together around developing a public health approach to minimize death and disability related to firearm injuries in the U.S. The publication of the proceedings from this conference demonstrates the extremely strong commitment of the professional medical and legal communities in eliminating needless death and suffering related to firearm injury. The report provides a road map for a comprehensive public health approach that can be implemented through these medical, legal, and community organizations. The document also provides a summary of the current activities by each of the participating organizations.  The publication concludes with the following consensus statements supported by 42 of the participating organizations:

  1. Firearm injury in the United States is a public health crisis.
  2. A comprehensive public health and medical approach is required to reduce death and disability from firearm injury.
  3. Research is needed to better understand the root causes of violence, identify people at risk, and determine the most effective strategies for firearm injury prevention.
  4. Federal and philanthropic research funding must be provided to match the burden of disease.
  5. Engaging firearm owners and populations at risk is critical in developing programs and policies for firearm injury prevention.
  6. Health care providers should be encouraged to counsel patients and families regarding firearm safety and safe storage. Educational and research efforts are needed to support appropriate culturally competent messaging.
  7. Screening for the risk of depression, suicide, intimate partner violence, and interpersonal violence should be conducted across all health care settings and in certain high-risk populations (such as those with dementia). Comprehensive resources and interventions are needed to support patients and families identified as high risk for firearm injury, who have access to a firearm.
  8. Hospitals and health care systems must genuinely engage the community in addressing the social determinants of disease, which contribute to structural violence in underserved communities.
  9. Our professional organizations commit to working together and continuing to meet in order to ensure these statements lead to constructive actions which improve the health and well-being of our fellow Americans.

A comprehensive public health approach requires an in-depth understanding of the epidemiology of violence and culturally competent, evidence-based interventions. This approach requires a significant investment in firearm injury prevention research and collective effort to address the social determinants of health and structural violence in our communities.

The report outlines the current evidence for specific interventions to address suicide, unintentional injury, and intentional interpersonal violence such as: counseling patients and families regarding safe storage of firearms; lethal means safety for suicide prevention; hospital-based violence intervention programs; identifying patients at risk for violence; the relationship between mental health and firearm injury; and issues of public policy.

Many of these practical interventions can be implemented without the need for political debate. We believe that by investing in research and empowering the professional community to address this issue we can improve the health and well-being of all Americans.