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Comprehensive public health approach urged to curb gun violence in US
Date:1/7/2013

de David Hemenway, professor of health policy at HSPH and an economist with expertise in gun violence; and David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

"Gun violence prevention has become highly politicized in the U.S.," said Ludwig, a pediatrician with expertise in child health promotion. "For this reason, we drew from past public health successes to craft an objective plan that could be considered for immediate action."

With more than 30,000 Americans killed by guns each year85 deaths per daysetting limits and regulations on gun ownership is just one aspect to be considered in curbing the violence, the authors say.

They offer more than a dozen recommendations, based on successful strategies used in other public health crises. For example, they suggest a new, substantial national tax on all firearms and ammunition, to more accurately reflect the true societal costs of gun ownership and to provide a stable revenue source to target gun violence prevention. Such a tax would function like the tobacco tax, which provides crucial funding for smoking prevention efforts.

Other "off-the-shelf" approaches to preventing gun violence can be borrowed from efforts used in the 1970s to prevent accidental poisonings, the authors say. In the case of potentially harmful drugs, child safety packaging was introduced. In the case of guns, a similar strategy would be the manufacture of "smart guns" with security codes or locking devices. Also, routine education and counseling by physicians and national networks for education and prevention helped significantly reduce childhood poisoning deaths; similar efforts could help curb gun-related deaths.

Public health efforts to reduce motor vehicle deaths also offer ideas that could help prevent gun violence. Strategies included systematic safety standards for the driver (like driver
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Contact: Marge Dwyer
mhdwyer@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-8416
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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