By Kristen Johnson, MD, Pediatrician
Dr. Kristen Johnson, and two of her pediatrician colleagues from the NH chapter of the AAP attended a 3 day legislative advocacy conference on children’s health in DC this week.
Topics were varying including e-cigarettes and alternative nicotine products, our opioid epidemic, the foster care crisis, and firearm safety.
Tuesday included visits to Capitol Hill with our US Senators and Representatives to discuss firearm violence and means of protecting the health and safety or our youth. In our meetings we were encouraged to hear of co-sponsorship of HB8 by Representative Pappas and the passage of this historic legislation expanding background checks. Similarly, Senators Hassan and Shaheen have co-sponsored S42, the senate’s version of this measure.
We found support across our federal representation for the allocation of funding for CDC research into gun violence prevention. As opposed to many other public health crises in pediatrics, gun violence prevention has little funding for research. We hope that with solid research we will be able to offer our patients and their families’ anticipatory guidance on gun safety and responsibility in the same way we discuss the “back to sleep” campaign for reducing sudden unexpected infant deaths or car seats and booster seat safety for children riding in their parent’s cars.
With our continuing struggle to support our teens with their mental health and their rising suicide rates, we hope that we may also offer fact-based suggestions on gun safety in the home to reduce the number of our community members who die by suicide. While firearms are only used in 5% of suicide attempts, they account for more than 50% of suicide deaths; 80% of suicide attempts with a firearm result in death. With research into prevention, we hope that pediatricians and our communities will have a data to support methods to keep our youth safe from impulsive decisions with firearms. Dr. Johnson comes back to us with a new perspective on caring for children and our community with our legislative partners in the state!