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Board of Health takes stand on firearm injury prevention research

TACOMA, Wash.—In another move of public health leadership, Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health passed a resolution at its Sept. 5 meeting to send a message to Congress: Fund Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research causes of firearm injury and death—and how to prevent them.

The Board of Health passed a resolution in 2013 after the December 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting urging lawmakers to act on firearm violence as a public and mental health issue. After the February 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting, the health board began to discuss firearm injury and deaths as a public health problem.

“We learned the CDC is not funded to research firearm injury and death causes,” said Rick Talbert, chair of the Board of Health. “Without this research, public health doesn’t have the data and evidence to develop strategies to keep people safe,” he said.

Public health researchers make data available that benefit policymakers, manufacturers and others who have a role to ensure public safety. CDC had a research role in the interventions that led to dramatic decreases in motor vehicle injury and deaths. For example, the per capita traffic fatality rate fell 31% from 2000 to 2013. The resolution calls on lawmakers to do the same with firearm injury prevention research.

“The chances of dying in a motor vehicle collision are much lower than they were 60 years ago. Public health and other government agencies stepped in to make this happen,” Talbert said. “We want to do the same thing with firearms. This resolution represents our residents and says to Congress, ‘do your job.’”

In his testimony before taking the 5-2 vote, Talbert highlighted the Board of Health’s courageous step of banning smoking in public places in Pierce County, despite industry and public skepticism. The state legislature later passed the statewide Smoking in Public places law.

“We urge other local, state and national public health governing bodies to have difficult conversations about how firearm injury and death affect our communities and our nation,” said Talbert.

Read the resolution.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.

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