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Upstate professor is one of 13 faculty nationwide to pen report on how academic public health institutions address gun violence prevention 

An Upstate University Medical School professor helped draft a report on gun violence and public health as part of a national taskforce.

Margaret Formica, PhD, an associate professor of public health and preventive medicine, joined 12 faculty from schools of public health around the country—including Harvard, Yale, and Johns Hopkins—to create a framework intended to guide academic public health institutions as they engage in the issue of firearm violence prevention. The report: Gun Violence Prevention: An Academic Public Health Framework was published last month by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.

The report determined that there are a number of barriers to effectively implementing strategies that can prevent firearm injuries and fatalities across the country. These include a deep national divide on public policy, the historical lack of funding to support gun violence research and the challenges practitioners face with framing gun violence as a public health or health equity issue rather than solely a criminal justice program. A disproportionate impact of firearm violence falls on Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities.

Formica said dealing with gun violence in public health programs and medical school programs is an important step toward reducing it.

“We came up with a plan on how we thought academic public health could be promoting research, education and advocacy around this issue,” Formica said.

Her biggest takeaway is that institutions need to prioritize the issue but that the lack of research historically hinders that effort.

“Right now, in public health there are so few researchers, so few experts in this area, so it isn’t in the curriculum,” she said. “We are training these public health practitioners and yet we are not giving them examples and information around gun violence. If we are not teaching the students these issues, they are not aware of them and they will not prioritize them when they are out and in their practice.”

If practitioners are more aware of the issues, they can educate their patients and feel more comfortable addressing the issue with patients.

“The goal is to bring about more research and more social acceptance around researching this issue, both patterns and prevention,” Formica said. “That broadens awareness across the board when there is more work being done around the issue.”

According to the report, more than 100 lives are lost daily due to gun violence in the United States. Half of firearm related deaths are due to suicide, four out of 10 are homicide and 1 in 100 are due to unintentional injury. During the COVID-19 pandemic, firearm deaths grew nearly 35 percent.

Formica said health officials don’t have a great understanding yet of the factors that lead to gun violence.

“We have a general sense, but there is so much we don’t know,” she said. “If we have a better understanding of the factors that lead to gun violence those prevention efforts and polices, and laws can be more effective because we are providing a base of evidence for them.”

Formica’s research in the last several years has focused on firearm violence, injury epidemiology, and violence prevention. She has collaboratively worked with a broad network of academic and community leaders and organizations to promote firearm violence research and prevention efforts. This work has raised awareness of the public health impact of firearm violence, disparities in firearm violence, advocated for prioritization of resources to address the issue, and provided tools to advance research and prevention efforts.


Caption: Margaret Formica, PhD, was part of a 13-member task force to address how gun violence prevention issues might be addressed by public health programs.