Home Emergency department visits for firearm injuries up 72 percent in three years

Emergency department visits for firearm injuries up 72 percent in three years

Crystal Graham
emergency room sign
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The Virginia Department of Health launched a new data dashboard on firearm injuries in Virginia last month showing the number and rate of emergency department visits from 2016 to 2022.

One statistic that jumps out: The number of emergency department visits for firearm injury increased 72 percent from 2018 (1,635 visits per year) to 2021 (2,815 visits per year).

The dashboard shows firearm injury data by year, health district, age group, sex, and race/ethnicity across Virginia.

“The misuse and mishandling of firearms constitute a significant cause of injury in Virginia,” said Colin M. Greene, state health commissioner. “This data set, obtained from emergency department records, will assist in the assessment of proximate causes of firearm-related injury, with an eye toward prevention of future injuries.”

The dashboard is a result of the Firearm Injury Surveillance Through Emergency Rooms funding awarded to VDH by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the next year, VDH hopes to expand the firearm injury dashboard to include data on firearm injury hospitalizations and deaths. While intent of injury (assault, intentional self-harm, unintentional) is not available through the emergency room data at this time, it will be available for hospitalization and death data.

VDH is one of 10 recipients funded for three years with the goal to improve public health surveillance of firearm injuries using near-real time emergency room data.

The dashboard findings also show:

  • From January 2016 through May 2022, the majority of firearm injury emergency department visits in Virginia (86 percent) were among males.
  • Among racial groups, most emergency department visits for firearm injury occurred among black patients. In 2021, 65 percent of visits for firearm injury were among black patients, compared to 22 percent among white patients.
  • Young adults bear the highest burden of visits for firearm injury with nearly one-third (31 percent) occurring among adults aged 18-24 years in 2021.

VDH worked with an advisory group of partners, including hospitals, education partners, law enforcement, state agencies and community organizations, to understand data needs and gather feedback about the firearm injury data dashboard.  Hospital and freestanding emergency departments report data to VDH, a partnership that is key for timely tracking of community health impacts.

This data is an example of syndromic surveillance, a strategy used by public health to detect emerging health issues and monitor community health in near-real time.

Learn more about syndromic surveillance at www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/syndromic-surveillance/.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.