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Guns leading cause of child death in 2020

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows gun deaths surpassed car accidents, but that's not new in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND — Research in the New England Journal of Medicine shows, the number one cause of death for children ages 1 to 19 in 2020 was gun violence.

This is the first time this gruesome milestone has been reached, surpassing car crashes, overdoses and cancer deaths.

More than 4,300 children died because of guns in the United States according to CDC mortality data; a 29% increase in just one year.

"You try to take a public health approach to the problem which is really about prevention, it's about individuals that might be at risk, it's about dealing with individuals that have already been involved in the system," Director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention at Case Western said.

Flannery researches the cause of spikes in this type of violence and is also looking at ways to address the root cause of the problem. 

That led him to work with Dr. Edward Barksdale Jr.,  Chief of Pediatric Surgery at University Hospitals.

"For me, this was not a surprise, we saw this crossover point in Cleveland eight to 10 years ago," Barksdale said.

Barksdale founded the Antifragility Initiative through the hospital after learning children who have been shot have a higher likelihood of coming back in with the same type of injury.

The program uses that moment, when the child is hospitalized, to intervene.

"We're not focused on the guns, we're focused on the children and the families that are victims so we can prevent them from being re-injured, re-victimized or also prevent them from becoming perpetrators of violence," Barksdale said.

Barksdale isn't surprised at this report and says it's also sign of a syndemic, or what happens when two epidemics are happening at the same time, causing more harm. 

In this case he says it's COVID and gun violence.

"We had an existing violence epidemic, we developed a COVID epidemic, pandemic, and the two of those brought much greater violence because it accentuated the despair," Barksdale said.

Both men say there's a lot that needs to be done to address this violence.

Barksdale says the key is to save lifetimes, not just help someone with a gunshot injury, but connect them with opportunities to achieve when they're healing.


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