UVM Health Network and UVM Children’s Hospital Join National Gun Safety Movement
Thousands of leading hospitals and prominent health associations nationwide unite to encourage families to ask about gun access and safety measures.
Burlington, Vt. – Guns are the leading cause of death for children in the United States. Thirteen children die from guns every day. To encourage parents, grandparents, families and community members to take action by asking about gun safety, the University of Vermont Health Network and University of Vermont Children’s Hospital join thousands of hospitals, health systems, American Hospital Association, Children’s Hospital Association and The Catholic Health Association of the U.S. in a nationwide public awareness and education campaign that encourages parents to ask if there are unsecured guns in the houses of their children’s friends.
By asking about safe gun storage, the campaign is meant to help parents and families feel empowered to ask other parents about access to guns. Broadcast, print and digital public service messages and a website highlight that access to unlocked guns can lead to death, suicide and gun violence, making it more likely that children die from guns than cancer or automobile accidents. The website provides tips on how to have a conversation with other parents and families about safely stored firearms, and encourages normalizing this conversation.
This month the American Academy of Pediatrics released their new policy statement on the role caregivers, health care professionals, communities, and legislators must play in reducing injuries and deaths in children from firearms by actively working together to implement a variety of action steps. “I am proud that our children’s hospital is committed to taking the steps recommended in this policy so we are part of the solution to this tragic and preventable problem,” said Lewis First, MD, Chief of the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital.
“Hospitals and health systems are part of the solution,” said Al Gobeille, UVM Health Network Chief Operating Officer. “Driven forward by the effort, passion and expertise of our clinicians, we will be an active voice in supporting initiatives and policies at the local, state and federal levels to reduce firearm violence.”
The UVM Health Network, which includes the region’s only Level 1 Trauma Center, is naming and treating firearm violence as a significant and escalating public health emergency requiring common sense approaches to reducing firearm violence and its horrific effects. Efforts include:
- Enhancing security services within our facilities, including installation of a metal detector at the UVM Medical Center Emergency Department;
- Launching a Workforce Workplace Violence Workgroup to review policies and identify gaps in securing facilities and responding to violent situations;
- Convening a group of leaders representing law enforcement, local, state and federal government, business leaders and partner nonprofits to share experiences and take action;
- Developing a Network-wide suicide care pathway through Epic, the Network electronic health record, to include screening and lethal means counseling, including specifically addressing firearms;
- Establishing a pilot to provide cable gun locks through pediatric practices to patients and families with firearms in the home; and
- Collaborating with the Clinton County, New York Department of Mental Health’s Coalition to Prevent Suicide and National Alliance on Mental Illness on efforts to raise awareness around firearm-related suicide.
“Firearms pose a risk to our communities, especially our children. If we come together, there is so much we can do to keep everyone safe and protected,” said UVM Medical Center Injury Prevention Coordinator Abby Beerman.
“Much like you ask the parent of a child’s friend about food allergies, or if there is a pool, you should also ask if there is a gun in the home,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, a leader in gun safety and education and one of the health systems that joined the national gun safety movement. “Health systems understand that gun violence is a public health crisis and one way we can all contribute to curbing the crisis is prevention. It starts by asking the question.”
About HospitalsUnited: Impetus for this and other public service campaigns come from over 100 healthcare marketing and communications executives representing the nation’s most prominent health systems, children’s hospitals, and hospital and health associations. Meeting regularly for a decade, they share knowledge. experience, best practices and resources, knowing they can accomplish more together. Founded and led by national healthcare leader Rhoda Weiss, Ph.D. the expanded coalition is partnering with Northwell Health, its Senior Vice President Ramon Soto and its Gun Violence Prevention Learning Collaborative for Hospitals and Health Systems for this effort. Many participants are also forming regional coalitions to offer messages of prevention and safety, hope and healing. To learn more, visit HospitalsUnited.com.