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State health officials address public health strategies to increase community and family safety from firearm violence and misuse

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RALEIGH — With the goal of keeping families and communities safe from firearm injury and death, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is releasing a white paper describing public health strategies to reduce firearm violence and misuse.

With rates of firearm deaths and injuries increasing in North Carolina and nationally, the white paper provides a framework for how to address firearm violence and misuse as public health issues. This requires using good data to identify trends, risk and protective factors and prioritize layered, evidence-informed and consensus-driven approaches that reduce firearm misuse, injuries and deaths.

“Too many communities and families are regularly feeling the pain of gun violence that should not and cannot become a normal part of day-to-day life,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “Working together with law enforcement and public health officials to address gun violence from every angle from crime, to suicides, to accidents, particularly involving children, is the right thing to do to make real progress keeping our communities safe.”

The white paper follows a roundtable discussion last week by professionals from health care, hospitals, public safety and community and veterans’ groups, hosted by Governor Cooper, NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley and State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson. The discussion focused on the need to build on areas of broad agreement, strengthen promising efforts already underway and work more closely together across the wide variety of organizations that have a stake in this issue.

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“A public health approach driven by data and informed by those most impacted will improve community safety and save lives in North Carolina,” Secretary Kinsley said. “We will build on the already successful programs across the state — layering those approaches to meet the needs of specific communities, reduce suicide and mitigate violence.”

In the 1970s, a public health approach used data and a layered prevention approach to reduce injuries and deaths from vehicle crashes. The tactics improved the safety of cars and better prepared drivers. The result over time was a 70% drop in deaths per mile driven. The same approach for firearms emphasizes safe storage, better protection for those at risk for violence and improvements to the mental health system to help people well in advance of crisis.

The white paper will inform additional work to find common ground, coordinate across public health and public safety and prioritize effective strategies for a safer North Carolina.

Secretary Kinsley and Dr. Tilson are available at the following times for interviews:

  • Thursday, Nov. 17 at 10:30 a.m.: NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley
  • Thursday, Nov. 17 at 1:30 p.m.: State Health Director, Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, M.D., M.P.H.

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