Letter to the Editor: October 9, 2013

To the Editor, 

There is no doubt gun violence is a serious public-health problem impacting the health and well-being of men, women and children living in the United States. What we know less about is how to effectively prevent the increasing number of related deaths and injuries. Fortunately, the recent National Institutes of Health funding announcements for research on the health determinants and consequences of violence — and particularly firearm violence — is a critical catalyst for the development of urgently needed interventions and policy changes.  

Gun violence in Allegheny County continues to persist. More than 100 homicides take place each year, the majority of which are the result of guns, and approximately five times as many assaults occur that do not result in death. In 2012, Pittsburgh saw approximately 14 homicides for every 100,000 residents. While other cities may experience higher homicide rates, violence in Pittsburgh continues to disproportionately affect African-American men in certain communities of the city.

The Community Violence Prevention Project at the Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for Health Equity is working to create a comprehensive and enhanced understanding of the reasons for homicides in Pittsburgh. Existing research has clearly shown that gun violence is an extremely complex topic, one that is subject to a variety of influencing factors. This points to the urgent need for efforts to address violence and homicide prevention at multiple levels within Pittsburgh communities. Through partnership and collaboration with local organizations including adult and juvenile court, county jail, city and county social service providers, trauma physicians, anti-gun violence advocates and community members, the Violence Prevention Program is tackling the tough question of what needs to be done to reduce the number of homicides and gun-related injuries in our communities. 

Teagen L. O’Malley, MPH

Graduate School of Public Health

Project coordinator, Community Violence Prevention Project