UNMH Emergency Department Chair discusses gun violence as a public health issue

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – After APD launched its 99th homicide investigation this year Monday, KOB 4 spoke to UNMH Emergency Department Chair Dr. Steve McLaughlin who explained the way gun violence is impacting health care workers.

Now, Dr. McLaughlin is looking at why gun violence should be treated as a public health issue.

"As a community, as a state, we should start to think about this as a preventable, treatable, understandable problem if we use the right public health tools to do that," Dr. McLaughlin explained.

Dr. McLaughlin says gun violence is absolutely preventable and, by looking at gun violence as a public health crisis, decisions can be made based on data from research and studies.

"Call it the public health approach, it is the same way that we would approach something like COVID or diabetes," Dr. McLaughlin noted. "We can use those same tools, that same kind of science, to inform the actions that we take to help reduce gun violence and help prevent it in our communities."

Funding this research will also help recognize what interventions actually work.

"You can think about gun violence in a similar way that there are social determinants that increase your risk of being a victim of gun violence," Dr. McLaughin said. "Part of the public health model is to understand those connections and try to intervene at an early level by helping to intervene at the level of those social determinants to help prevent the kinds of later-on effects that lead to things like diabetes or gun violence."

There are already studies across the country that point to possible solutions but Dr. McLaughlin says because New Mexico is a unique state, funding should be dedicated to understanding this population.