New Program Will Promote Firearm Safety as a Public Health Issue

Jun. 3, 2024
Firearm Injury Prevention Program (FIPP) will provide gun safety education to the community

A newly established UR Medicine program will collaborate with health care providers, community agencies, and residents across Rochester and the Finger Lakes Region to find effective ways to prevent suicides and other intentional or accidental injuries and deaths related to firearms.

Incidents involving firearms are the number one cause of death among children in New York State and the nation, and one of the leading causes of injury-related death among adults. As research by Michael Vella, MD, MBA, trauma medical director at the Kessler Trauma Center, demonstrates, for those who survive firearm injury, negative consequences reach far beyond the physical pain and injury, impacting mental health, social, and emotional outcomes for many years following the event.

The Firearm Injury Prevention Program (FIPP) will address this public health issue through multiple strategies, including:

  • Training and tools, co-developed with community input across the region, to help health care providers discuss firearm safety with patients and family members
  • Public education about safe storage of firearms, how to have productive conversations about responsible firearm ownership, ways for individuals to safely remove firearms in their home that they no longer want and other ways to reduce risk
  • Collaboration with agencies – including Pathways to Peace, SNUG, and Rise Up Rochester – that focus on community violence prevention, including intervention with victims of gun violence after they receive medical treatment

The group hopes to capitalize on common ground that recognizes the urgency regarding this public health concern and the importance of addressing a modifiable risk factor: firearm safety for both firearm owners and non-owners. “No matter what the perspective on gun control, a vast majority of the public believes that firearm safety and responsible ownership is important,” said Corey Nichols-Hadeed, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and FIPP co-director, “This program will seek to bring people together from all backgrounds to encourage safe storage of firearms, which will save lives.”

FIPP also will seek to train health care providers on how to have conversations with patients and their family members about firearm safety, as well as collaborate with local community groups and school districts to provide resources on reducing risk.

“Part of breaking down barriers to promote firearm safety is to help caregivers and community members feel comfortable enough to have these conversations with families and individuals and be aware of options to provide in order to reduce risk,” said Dr. Jennifer West, Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Psychology) and Pediatrics and co-director of FIPP. “Providing simple and accessible tools such as patient handouts, informational posters for clinical spaces, and a medical record note template that includes general questions about firearm safety can help make the process much easier to bridge those conversations.”

FIPP is kicking off its public and clinician education work in June, which is National Gun Violence Awareness Month, by participating in National Wear Orange Day and other events related to firearm safety and violence prevention over the next few weeks. In coming months, FIPP members will promote firearm safety and violence prevention through various public awareness days and celebrations, including Suicide Prevention month (September) and World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month (October), among others.

The program is supported by University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) faculty and staff expertise from the Departments of Psychiatry, Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, and Surgery.