By Eric Tegethoff

Washington News Service

SEATTLE — Kaiser Permanente is investing in a largely underfunded field of research: gun violence prevention. The health care company is dedicating $2 million to research care delivery and how doctors can be involved in stopping firearms injury and death.

Dr. David Grossman, a senior researcher with Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, is helping to lead the task force. He says gun violence is a public health issue that can’t be ignored and wants the research to prompt other health care systems to join Kaiser Permanente in its investigation.

“We do hope that this investment is a down payment on our part, to really begin to dig into to this issue,” Grossman says. “We can’t wait any longer ’til federal funds eventually arrive if they’ll ever arrive.”

He says most of the health care industry’s research money comes from federal grants. However, a rule known as the Dickey Amendment has prevented the government from funding gun violence research over the last two decades.

As the largest integrated care organization, and serving regions that are collectively home to 65 million people, he says Kaiser Permanente can also help steer the direction of research.

Grossman points out that investigators already know which groups are at highest risk of injury or death from firearms — people with depression, victims of domestic violence, and those who abuse substances like drugs or alcohol. He says Kaiser Permanente already serves these patients.

“Part of our goal now is to integrate injury prevention as part of that treatment, meaning that we will look and do research on ways that we can reduce their access to means of suicide, for example, especially guns,” he explains.

He says the purpose of this research is to find out what prevention tools will work as quickly as possible.

“This is really not about generating more data and statistics,” he adds. “This is really about identifying solutions.”

Grossman says the task force will develop an agenda and most likely release grants within the next six months.


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