By Dr. Ken Ashley, Medical Director, Primary Care, Sutter Medical Group; Dr. Rebecca Fazilat, Chair, Board of Directors, Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group; Dr. Rob Nordgren, Area CEO, Sutter Bay Medical Foundation
Each day, pediatricians throughout the Sutter network meet with parents and guardians who are eager to do all they can to raise a healthy child. Their concerns often relate to nutrition, sleep, cold and flu symptoms and developmental milestones. What’s not always discussed, however, is access to firearms.
For the first time ever, guns have overtaken all other causes of death in children. As pediatricians, it’s now equally important that we ask if a child has access to an unsecured firearm as checking a child’s height and weight. Some might find questions about their firearms invasive, or not understand why they are important in a pediatrician’s office. According to the Journal of Urban Health, more than 4.6 million children live in a household with at least one unlocked gun, and 70% of unintentional shootings by children occur in the home. When we ask about access to unsecured firearms, it is not a judgment. It’s our responsibility to support the health of our patients.
As healthcare providers, we can also encourage parents and guardians to ask their family and friends about unsecured firearms in places their child visits. Reducing stigma around this topic and providing conversation starters can help us fight this epidemic, save kids’ lives and make conversations regarding firearms a part of routine healthcare. Asking family and friends if a gun is stored safely should be no different than asking if there’s a pool fence in the backyard or whether a child has any food allergies.
Healthcare is committed to making a meaningful difference when it comes to child gun deaths. That is why Sutter Health and dozens of health systems across the country have joined HospitalsUnited.com. It is a nationwide campaign that encourages preventive conversations with family and friends to reduce firearm risk. To learn more about it, or for resources in starting conversations about firearm safety with family and friends, visit HospitalsUnited.com.
Drs. Ashley, Fazilat and Nordgren have decades of pediatric experience and have cared for thousands of children throughout the Sutter network.