“An eighteen-year-old male was found unresponsive with apparent gunshot wounds today…”. This announcement is a news opener we hear way too often. Areas with large urban populations such as Washington, DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles are hit the hardest with these types of disparities, which is why Healthy People 2020 named it one of the Leading Health Indicators (LHI) with a goal of setting a lower percentage of deaths by violence in each respective city. The District of Columbia had 100 homicides in 2019, a six percent increase from last year (https://mpdc.gov/page/district-crime-data-glance). For too long, this epidemic has been overlooked, brushed aside as if it will go away on its own. That certainly has not happened yet. Now, it is time to take action. Finding the root and cause of this type of violence will be critical in implementing a strategy that can be utilized for saving more lives. There is much to be discussed when it comes to the why, how and how comes of this topic. Blame has been placed on the lower income areas as well as the higher income areas. Some believe it is a systematic destruction of specific races. In the end, it is a National issue that must be addressed not in part, but by the whole of the human population. It starts… one person at a time.
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DMV Metro and other major cities
In 2018, Washington, D.C. had over four thousand violent crimes with 160 resulting in a homicide. ( https://mpdc.gov/page/district-crime-data-glance ). Almost two thousand firearms were recovered the same year. Cities in close proximity such as Baltimore, had alarmingly high numbers as well. Most of these crimes affect racial and ethnic minorities. People in low income housing had a higher crime rate of two times higher than high income households. Adolescents ages 12 to 17 held the highest rate for violence in these areas. ( https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/annual/measure/Crime/state/MD ) The Healthy People 2020’s overarching goal is to create social and physical environments that promote good health for all. This will include implementing these strategies in the public-school system as well as creating afterschool and summer programs. Lower income housing individuals have less financial freedom to enroll children in extracurricular activities that builds their skill level. They are often left to fend for themselves as parents are working all day and sometimes even second jobs. The new strategies will give children and young adults alternative and positive actions to circumvent the chance of violence.
Article One: “I’m scared to die”
This article showcases an eight-year-old from Langston Lane Apartments in Washington D.C., one of the areas known for physical and gun violence, who says this everyday while he waits for his grandmother to walk him home from his afterschool program. This is one of many kids who all speak of the same fear. The fear of dying while coming home from school, going to the store for their parents, or simply playing outside. The article goes on to talk about the TraRon program that promotes art and therapy as a way to deal with the inner-city violence. It helps kids consisting of mostly middle school and elementary handle the trauma of “generational gun violence” This program, like many others, are spearheaded by Healthy People 2020 as a way to lower the percentage of injury and violence.
Article Two: Mass shootings
Albeit this second article is primarily about people being killed in the U.S from mass shootings, which is contrast to my focus on the inner city of the D.C. metro area, It is imperative to show you because it shows that as a nation, we are ALL responsible for protecting each other and unilaterally finding ways to end the violence. This article speaks about a specific three mass-shootings in the U.S., killing over fourteen hundred people combined. It does speak of Baltimore with 11 people (all teens or under 25 years of age) being shot and killed in one weekend. It also hints on the new kind of normalcy that comes with the fact that we are becoming used to shootings and killings that we almost expect it. This is also another area that we can capitalize on for promotion of self-awareness, and love for humanity in general. ( https://www.thetrace.org/2015/08/gun-deaths-charleston-chattanooga-lafayette/ )
Article Three: Firearm suicide among youth in the United States
Another area we need to address is teen and young adult suicide with 37% of these coming by way of firearms. There are programs in place and more being created every year that will help to give teens a better way to deal with the disparities that come from growing up in less than ideal environments, abusive parents, lack of educational resources, etc. The article relates to them as “Greater Risk” because of all of the pitfalls and obstacles they face over children in more affluent areas. It goes on to educate on more statistical data such as the study population done for children who died by firearms between January 2004 and December 2015 all between the ages of 10 to 18. All of these deaths were ruled a suicide. As you delve deeper into the article it gives you some alarmingly high percentage numbers of children susceptible to this ill fate. It is a must read for everyone. This is another piece of the puzzle that quickly needs to be addressed if we are to save the future generations. ( https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10865-019-00037-0 )
Health Promotion: Where do we start?
This has been a topic for quite a while. There has been a lot of finger pointing, and race blaming to the point that the real issue has been overlooked time and time again. Sure, there are systematic obstacles in place that can often hinder or bind people from lower income households, or inner city, urban areas from achieving the same goals as those from more affluent ones. There is no denying that. However, we as a people, the humans of this planet, must rise above that and aim to teach the entire next generation the importance of humanity. If you see someone hurting, reach out a hand. If you see your neighbor struggling, offer assistance of any level, and if you see someone lost without guidance, then by all means try and guide them.
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Healthy People 2020 has realized the aforementioned issues and are taking great strides to assist with overcoming these obstacles. They are organizing more focus and educational groups to assist with this challenge. Adding more afterschool and summer camp programs, creating male role model mentors for mother only homes, more seminars on how to deescalate possible violent situations, and moreover teaching young boys and girls the value of their worth, are some of the key areas that can be utilized to see a significant drop in injury and/or death by gun or dangerous weapon .
As we have heard before, on many topics… This is easier said than done. There is no overnight fix. Healthy People 2020 are satisfied with a 10% increase as a win. This places the expectation and realization in perspective. It is not easy trying to change programming of people who have lived a certain lifestyle for their entire lives. Whereas we do not want to give up on the older generation, we must choose our battles wisely. The children are the future and can bring in a new era of thinking and pave a way of human betterment for the generations to come. We hold a responsibility to the next generation to pave the way for the next generation after that. As a person who has awoken from the blindfolds of society, I am proud to say that becoming a Nurse will enable me to help teach and educate people of all ages in many areas, especially health to allow them to pass ion to others. When we see the high percentages of young deaths as I spoke of earlier, we know it is our duty to not stand idly by. Healthy People 2020 is a great initiative, but it takes all of us to make a real difference. I say this with love and I hope you all receive it with open minds.
- Schnitzer, P.G., Dykstra, H.K., Trigylidas, T.E. et al. J Behav Med (2019) 42: 584. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-019-00037-0
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