A first-of-its-kind statewide firearm injury survey from Oregon Health & Science University finds that both urban and rural regions in Oregon are equally affected by thousands of injuries.
The number of firearm injuries treated in Oregon emergency rooms increased by 90% between 2019 and 2021, according to research produced by the newly established Gun Violence Prevention Research Center at OHSU. The first report, which will be updated four times a year, compiled the information provided by hospital emergency rooms between 2018 and 2021.
In Douglas, Jefferson, and Multnomah counties—which correspond to regions of the state covering timber country in Southern Oregon, the high desert in Central Oregon, and the state’s most populous urban county, respectively—the report found the highest per-capita rates of firearm injury visits to emergency departments.
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‘Not just a Portland problem’
The head of the new centre and an assistant professor at the OHSU-Portland State University School of Public Health, Kathleen Carlson, PhD, stated that the data “shows that firearm injuries are not only a Portland problem.”
Carlson is a core investigator at the Health Services Research Center of Innovation at the VA Portland Health Care System and an injury epidemiologist at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. Through a contract with the Oregon Health Authority and the use of federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she is in charge of overseeing the effort to track firearm injuries. This year, Carlson has also been in charge of overseeing the establishment of the new centre with seed funding supplied by the Silver Family Innovation Fund via OHSU.
The School of Public Health and the Oregon Health Authority will work together to aggregate data from a state surveillance system in order to create the centre’s first report, which will be constantly updated on an online dashboard.
In 2020, 592 people in Oregon died as a result of gun injuries, according to the report.
In the same year, hospital emergency departments and urgent care facilities handled an additional 730 persons who had survived gunshot wounds. According to the research, unintentional injuries made up the majority of injuries treated from January 2018 to June 2021 among those for which a cause could be identified.
According to Susan DeFrancesco, J.D., M.P.H., a senior research project manager in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and one of the researchers who created the paper, “We know a lot about firearm deaths, but we don’t know as much about nonfatal injuries.” Our objective is to give information that helps people comprehend the impact of gun injuries in our state.
In order to achieve this, the authors are focusing on hospital emergency departments that supply data to the state monitoring system that the researchers are employing. Currently, only about 40% of 1,753 manually reviewed records of firearm injury emergency department visits reported to the system between 2018 and 2021 included details about how the injury occurred.
Including whether it was an assault or an attempted suicide, whether it was an unintended discharge, such as during a hunting accident, and how the injury was sustained. This makes identifying the best preventative measures for the majority of nonfatal firearm injuries that take place in Oregon more difficult.
A similar lack of specificity has been documented by researchers in other states, according to DeFrancesco.
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Injury Rates Among Black Persons Are Significantly Higher
According to the research, people of colour sustain injuries at a rate that is disproportionately higher than their representation in the state’s general population. People who are classified as Black or African American, for instance, made up 14% of all emergency room visits for gunshot injuries, despite making up only 2% of the state’s overall population.
The research explains how “upstream” sources of health and injury disparities result in this increased burden being felt by communities of colour. To put it another way, intentional, historical behaviours and policies have led to community disinvestment and unequal access to social, economic, and educational opportunities—all of which have an impact on the health and safety of individuals.
Maywood Park municipal councillor and minister Robin Wisner said, “The details are worrisome.”
Wisner, whose own son was killed by gun violence, was one of the locals who worked with the researchers to create the first report on gunshot injuries. The number of firearm injuries and what caused them will be compiled, he added, in the hopes that medical experts and community leaders can start to treat gun violence as the scourge it is.
I believe that we can decrease gun violence if we can send a man to the moon, he remarked.
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