Things We ❤️: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Firearm Violence

A doodle pointing to the US Surgeon General's Advisory titled, "Firearm Violence: A Public Health Crisis in America."

Last month, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory declaring firearm violence in the U.S. to be a public health crisis. This important step confirms what we in the health comm space already know — it’s time to de-politicize our approach to gun violence and start treating it as a public health problem that calls for common sense solutions.

In 2022, gun violence killed over 48,000 people in the U.S. While that number is staggering, it doesn’t paint the full picture. It doesn’t do justice to the many thousands more who are injured in situations involving firearms. It says nothing about the devastation and heartbreak for those who lost a loved one — or the trauma affecting those who’ve been victims of gun violence. Nor does it capture the collective mental toll the threat of gun violence takes on pretty much all of us.

Many of us have felt powerless in the face of this epidemic. After all, health comm strategies will only go so far when we’re up against a systemic threat like gun violence that’s so deeply rooted in American society. The Surgeon General taking a stand on the issue sends a powerful message and reminds us that we have a voice — and agency to change things for the better. How do we know? Well, we’ve done it before. In an interview with NPR, Dr. Murthy names the example of smoking as a highly politicized issue. Once we reframed tobacco use as a public health issue, we were able to take meaningful action to significantly lower smoking rates.

In his advisory, the Surgeon General outlines a public health approach for lowering the risk of gun violence and unintended injury — including investing in research, promoting safe gun storage practices, and increasing access to mental health care. None of these strategies is going to magically fix gun violence in the U.S. But they are practical steps we can take toward addressing a crisis that’s taken far too many lives, for far too long. And what’s not to ❤️ about that?

Bottom line: The Surgeon General’s new advisory on firearm violence reminds us that the question of guns doesn’t have to be all or nothing — by treating gun violence as a public health issue, we make space for taking common sense steps to help lower the risk of gun violence and deaths.

Copy/paste to share on social (and tag us!): The U.S. Surgeon General’s new advisory declares firearm violence to be a public health crisis — at CommunicateHealth, we applaud this important step. Check out this week’s post for thoughts and resources: #HealthCommunication #HealthLiteracy #HealthComm


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