By Dr. Mary Bassett, New York City’s Health Commissioner
For far too long, far too many lives have been cut short by the plague of gun violence in the places we live, work, play and love. We can’t wait for Congress to act on gun control; it’s time for the rest of us to take responsibility. For me, it means addressing gun violence as the public health emergency it is.
The mission of public health is to protect and promote the health, safety and wellbeing of entire populations. When public health professionals notice a troubling trend, we can’t sit on the sidelines. We must take action. When we saw that thousands of people were dying before their time due to smoking each year, we aggressively disseminated information about the harms of smoking, implemented new treatment tools and collaborated with lawmakers to raise taxes and ban smoking in public places. Our multipronged approach worked - the adult smoking rate in New York City declined by 35% between 2002 and 2014, and the youth smoking rate fell by 53% from 2001 to 2013.
There’s no reason our country can’t take a similar multipronged approach to prevent gun violence. Community-based interventions like Cure Violence, a program started in Chicago by Dr. Gary Slutkin, are part of this effort. In New York City, Cure Violence aims to reduce gun violence in 17 neighborhoods that account for more than half of the city’s shootings through a collaborative of community organizations and government partners delivering wraparound behavioral and social support services which have been shown to reduce violence.