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Colorado School of Public Health News and Stories

Firearm Injury Prevention

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ColoradoSPH's Top Stories of 2023

In 2023, some of the nation’s top public health researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health tackled a variety of the largest public health questions facing us today.

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Research    Students    Epidemiology    Firearm Injury Prevention    Student and Alumni    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

Mapping Mass Shootings in the United States

The United States has more than 10 times the number of mass shooting incidents than other developed countries, yet little research has shown the distribution and types of shootings, geographically.

Author Colleen Miracle | Publish Date July 26, 2023
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Community    Epidemiology    Firearm Injury Prevention    Community and Practice    ColoradoSPH at CU Anschutz    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

CDPHE Partners with the Colorado School of Public Health to Create Gun Violence Prevention Resource Bank

The Office of Gun Violence Prevention within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is partnering with researchers from the Injury and Violence Prevention Center in the Colorado School of Public Health to create and maintain a resource bank of regularly updated and accurate materials regarding gun violence in Colorado.

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Students    Scholarship    Awards    Firearm Injury Prevention    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

Announcing 2021 Hoffman Firearm Injury and Violence Prevention Scholarship Awardees

Congratulations to DrPH candidates Ginny McCathy, MPH, MDiv and Leslie Barnard, MPH on being selected to receive a Colorado School of Public Health Hoffman Firearm Injury and Violence Prevention Scholarship! The Hoffman Scholarship is awarded to incoming or continuing students in a masters or doctoral program at the Colorado School of Public Health. Students were selected via a faculty panel in which they demonstrated high academic potential and aspiration to work on the prevention of firearm injury and death (including suicide) in federal, state, or local public health agencies. 

Ginny McCarthy, MPH, MDiv 
Ginny McCarthy is a first year DrPH student in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health. Prior to beginning doctoral studies, Ginny completed her Master of Public Health at Loyola University Chicago and her Master of Divinity from Boston College. During her time in Chicago, Ginny worked in student-facing administration at Loyola’s Health Sciences Campus while also working closely with the Public Health Sciences and Emergency Medicine departments on topics of community engagement with a specific focus on firearm injury and prevention and social enterprise. Ginny hopes through her doctoral studies to incorporate geospatial analysis and community-initiated firearm safety practices into her work of firearm injury and prevention.

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Firearm Injury Prevention    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

CU Anschutz Establishes the Injury & Violence Prevention Center

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has established a new center, the Injury & Violence Prevention Center, which aims to drive evidence-based prevention of injuries and violence through research, training and education, and dissemination.

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Community    Epidemiology    Firearm Injury Prevention    Community and Practice    ColoradoSPH at CU Anschutz    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

Data on Gun Violence Would Save Lives—Just Like It Has for Car Crashes

In 2010, total U.S. traffic deaths fell to their lowest level since the 1950s – due in part to more motorists buying into “buckling up and embracing safety innovations.” Motor vehicle death rates have remained roughly steady since that time despite more people driving

Over the same decades, however, firearm death rates have remained steady and now started to rise. Why? 

Let’s start by unpacking what led to the decrease in traffic deaths. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t a single “magic bullet.” Rather, it was a combination of approaches under the “three E’s of injury prevention” — education, engineering and enactment.

Education includes teaching the public about safe driving (basic driving rules; “don’t drink and drive”; the #justdrive campaign to end distracted driving), and about safe behaviors (like using appropriate car seats for kids). Remember the crash test dummies from the 1980s in television spots about using seat belts? Traffic safety campaigns also involve community or cultural change, like the “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” slogan that also began in the 1980s. 

Engineering means making a product or environment safer — and sometimes this approach can work well because it doesn’t rely on changing behavior (which we know can be hard). For traffic safety, engineering advances over the past decades have had a major impact on crash fatality rates. Car occupants are far more likely to survive a crash now thanks to innovations like air bags (invented in 1951), seat belts and crumple zones (the parts of the car designed to absorb impact and crumple in a crash). Newer technologies like automatic braking systems and blind spot detection may even reduce the likelihood of a crash even happening. 

Engineering of the environment outside cars also helped reduce deaths, through things like rumble strips, highway guard rails, traffic lights (introduced in 1930) and urban design to reduce motor vehicle – pedestrian collisions. Social engineering has included the development of alternative transportation options, like Uber and Lyft, that may reduce drunk driving

Enactment of laws was a third key component to reducing traffic deaths. In 1970, the Highway Safety Act established the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a national organization responsible for reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses from motor vehicle crashes. NHTSA oversees large educational campaigns as well as vehicle safety testing, ratings and recalls. 

Federal and state laws set speed limits and policies around driver licensing and driving while impaired. A key component of enactment is enforcement — that is, how are laws actually implemented and enforced, such as through heightened patrolling for drunk driving during holiday periods.

So, what does all this mean for reducing firearm-related injuries and fatalities? 

Well, the first takeaway should be that there’s not a single “magic bullet” here, either. It’s going to take a combination of approaches, as well as the research to understand which ones work and why

We need educational efforts to reduce firearm injuries and deaths — things like campaigns about secure home firearm storage (to keep guns out of the hands of kids) and reducing firearm access in times of suicide risk, and violence interruption programs with trusted community messengers. Maybe “have a brave conversation” will become the new “friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” as we encourage friends and family to look out for those with suicide risk. And we need engineering approaches like biometric “smart guns” (which can only be fired by an authorized user) and storage devices like safes, quick-access lock boxes and trigger locks. 

Yes, we will also need enactment of policies if we want to significantly reduce firearm injuries and deaths in the United States. But we need thoughtful conversations about those policies — and then research to evaluate their effect on a range of outcomes — rather than knee-jerk reactions (either pro or con). Beyond the policies most often debated, we should also be thinking about policies to encourage secure home firearm storage, facilitate temporary firearm transfers in times of suicide risk, reduce liability for firearm outlets that offer temporary storage to prevent suicide, or even establish a NHTSA-like entity for firearm injury.

Enacting firearm-related legislation alone won’t solve the problem of firearm-related injuries and deaths — nor will education, nor will engineering. We need them all — and we need the research to inform them all. We need to engage varied voices in these discussions. We need to move away from vilifying the “other side” and instead embrace the fact that all of us want to keep our friends and loved ones safe from harm. 

We’ve been down this road before, with a comprehensive approach to traffic safety and reducing motor vehicle deaths. We can do it again, this time with firearm injury.   

Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, is a practicing emergency physician and researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where she directs the Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative. She also co-founded the Colorado Firearm Safety Coalition and gave a TEDx talk on firearm suicide prevention. This piece reflects her views, not those of her employers.

This article originally appeared in The Hill.

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Community    Firearm Injury Prevention    Community and Practice    ColoradoSPH at CU Anschutz    Environment    Gun Violence Prevention

Open Letter to CO Lawmakers: Fix Our Broken Relationship With Guns

An open letter to: City of Louisville City Council; State Representative Tracey Barnett; State Senator Sonja Jacquez Lewis; Representative Joe Neguse; Representative Jason Crow; Representative Dianne DeGuette; Representative Ed Perlmutter; Representative Lauren Bohbert; Representative Ken Buck; Representative Doug Lamborn; Senator Michael Bennet; Senator John Hickenlooper; and Governor Jared Polis. Dr. Katie Dickinson is a Boulder native, a current Louisville resident, and an Assistant Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Colorado School of Public Health.

Author Katie Dickinson | Publish Date March 24, 2021
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Research    Epidemiology    Firearm Injury Prevention    ColoradoSPH at CU Anschutz    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

Colorado Emergency Departments Take New Steps to Prevent Youth Suicide

A new study conducted in seven Front Range emergency departments demonstrated success in helping parents make their homes safer when a teen is distressed.

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Community    COVID-19    Mental Health    Epidemiology    Firearm Injury Prevention    Infectious disease    Community and Practice    ColoradoSPH at CU Anschutz    Suicide Prevention    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

COVID-19 and Suicide: An Uncertain Connection

I live and work in Colorado, a beautiful state that can look to an outsider like a year-round playground of sunshine and skiing. But my state has a big problem: suicide rates that are among the highest in the country. 

Author Emmy Betz | Publish Date April 22, 2020
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Firearm Injury Prevention    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

#ThisIsOurLane in Colorado, Too

As an emergency physician and a trauma surgeon, we are honored to work with our multi-disciplinary teams 24/7 to save limbs and lives after devastating injuries — including those from firearms.

Author Catherine Velopulos | Publish Date December 03, 2018
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Community    Firearm Injury Prevention    Community and Practice    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

Isn’t Better Research into Gun Violence Something Everyone Can Get Behind?

The Dickey Amendment, named after former Arkansas Rep. Jay Dickey, created a de-facto ban on federal funding for gun research in the 1990s.

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Firearm Injury Prevention    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

Gun Training in US Fails to Include Suicide Prevention

The low percentage of owners who have received training in suicide prevention is notable because there is a strong association between gun access and suicide, Dr. Emmy Betz, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Core Faculty, Program for Injury Prevention, Education and Research (PIPER) Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora.

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Firearm Injury Prevention    Gun Violence Prevention    Injury & Violence Prevention

Research Shows Most Americans Support Restriction on Where Firearms Can Be Carried

According to research from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, more than two-thirds of Americans surveyed support some restrictions on carrying firearms in public places.

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Colorado School of Public Health In the News

CSU Source

What do your blood test results mean? A toxicologist explains the basics of how to interpret them

news outletCSU Source
Publish DateFebruary 07, 2024

As a toxicologist, Brad Reisfeld, a ColoradoSPH professor at CSU, studies the effects of drugs and environmental contaminants on human health. As part of his work, he relies on various health-related biomarkers, many of which are measured using conventional blood tests. Understanding what common blood tests are intended to measure can help you better interpret the results.

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Wall Street Journal

Marijuana Messes With Your Driving for Longer Than You Think

news outletWall Street Journal
Publish DateFebruary 05, 2024

You may think you’re OK to drive an hour or two after you get high on marijuana. Researchers and doctors say you’re not. Pot affects you differently than alcohol, can linger in your system for longer, and it can be harder to figure out when it’s safe to drive. 

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CU Connections

Regents celebrate CU luminaries with slate of annual awards

news outletCU Connections
Publish DateFebruary 01, 2024

Ned Calonge received a Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes those persons whose achievements and contributions are particularly associated with the state and/or nation.

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Public Health Post

The Secret World of Youth Vaping

news outletPublic Health Post
Publish DateJanuary 24, 2024

Youth vaping has risen at an unprecedented rate since vaping products were first introduced into the U.S. market in 2007. In 2011, 5% of U.S. high school students reported that they had tried e-cigarettes (i.e., “vaping”). Eight years later, in 2019, 50% of high school students had tried vaping and 7% were vaping every day. Vaping is now more common among adolescents than smoking cigarettes. In 2022, 21% of 12th graders reported having vaped in the past month compared to 4% who smoked. 

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