How sad that it took Newtown, Connecticut's horrific tragedy to finally focus the nation's attention on two pressing public health problems: the proliferation of guns in our society and the declining availability of mental health services. The healthcare community has much to offer during the national discussion that President Barack Obama promised to initiate in the wake of the senseless deaths of 20 children and six adults less than three weeks before Christmas. Let's make sure its voice is heard.
As the American College of Emergency Physicians and other physician groups pointed out last week, healthcare workers deal every day with the tragic consequences of unrestricted access to guns. Firearms were used in more than two-thirds of the 16,799 homicides in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The carnage was actually far higher since the battlefield lessons learned over the past century's wars, especially the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, allow medical personnel to save far more of the wounded than in previous eras.