Gun injuries in kids surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 50% increase compared to previous years. Data from children’s hospitals showed there were 2,759 firearm injuries among children between April 2020 to December 2021 compared to 1,815 injuries during the same time period in 2018 and 2019. Researchers at University of Utah Health carried out the analysis, which published as a research letter in JAMA Pediatrics.
“Firearm injuries are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the United States. This is a heart-breaking statistic,” Stephanie Iantorno, M.D. told Healio. She is lead author of the study and a surgical resident at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah. Katie Russell, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, was the study’s senior author. “During the pandemic, there were significantly more firearm injuries seen at children's hospitals across the country, and that is pretty alarming,” says Iantorno.
Closer analysis revealed that a disproportionate number of Black children and children with public insurance were injured by guns during that time compared to previous years. “Pandemic conditions exacerbated many structural inequities that contribute to health disparities, and our findings may reflect the disparities that some minoritized children experienced during the study period,” the study’s authors wrote.
The results came from statistical analysis of the Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS) database with information from 49 children’s hospitals across the U.S. and does not account for transfers from other hospitals.
The authors note that understanding the context of gun injuries in children may inform approaches for prevention and prepare health systems to provide the best care in such circumstances.
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In addition to Iantorno and Russell, the study’s coauthors are Robert Swendiman, M.D., and Brian Bucher, M.D.
The research was supported by the University of Utah, Intermountain Healthcare, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and published as “Surge in Pediatric Firearm Injuries Presenting to US Children’s Hospitals During the COVID-19 Pandemic