Kaiser Permanente is throwing money behind studying gun violence amid a growing chorus in the medical community to address the problem as a public health issue.
The California-based health system giant said it will invest $2 million in research involving doctors and other professionals at its hospitals and health centers around the U.S., The Washington Post reported.
The issue has lacked substantial academic research in large part due to a law that has effectively blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding gun-related research for more than 20 years.
Officials at Kaiser Permanente told The Washington Post they hope to identify key areas of focus for gun researchers and encourage other systems to follow them into the gun research arena. “The problem now is we really don’t have evidence to know what’s effective and what works” to prevent gun-related injury, said David Grossman, M.D., a senior researcher leading the project.
It adds to a groundswell of interest in examining gun violence that has grown in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida in February. Congress included language in a recent spending bill meant to make it easier for the CDC to fund research into the issue.
In some states, lawmakers have begun considering ways to support gun research. For example, the New Jersey Legislature is considering a measure that would create a gun-violence research center at Rutgers University. It would be modeled after a similar center at the University of California, Davis, which launched in 2017 with $5 million in state money.
And while doctors have long sought ways to address gun violence as a public health crisis, more of them have begun publicly adding their voices to the gun control debate in recent months, FierceHealthcare reported recently.
Kaiser Permanente officials told The Washington Post they want to better understand the scope of the issue, saying its doctors treated more than 11,000 gunshot wounds between 2016 and 2017 among its more than 12 million member patients across the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control estimates 73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for nonfatal gunshot wounds in 2010 and that guns were the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths. A Stanford University School of Medicine study found the cost of gun-related hospitalizations in the U.S. between 2006 and 2016 totaled $735 million per year.