AFFIRMing the Work: American Racism and the Public Health Approach to Firearm Injury

In the past months our country has seen a confluence of three major public health crises: racism, gun violence, and the insidious COVID-19 pandemic. The leadership of AFFIRM is full of anger, sorrow, and deep regret as we witnessed the murder of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and many others. These were avoidable deaths and beautiful lives cut short at the hands of racism.

The deeply embedded, ever-present public health crisis of racism, captured during a time of physical isolation, may finally force our nation and world to address the role that racism plays within our institutions. Meanwhile, the gun violence epidemic has continued unabated, even as millions of Americans sheltered-in-place from COVID-19. We recognize and acknowledge that the burden of suffering from firearm injury is born disproportionately by individuals in our society whose skin is not white. We also recognize and acknowledge that this has always been the case in U.S. society. This moment demands that we ask how our organization is explicitly responding to these deeply intertwined epidemics.

In a time of depressingly similar conditions in our country, James Baldwin wrote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

At this moment of national reckoning, we therefore reinforce AFFIRM’s commitment to doing the hard work to both face and reduce the American epidemic of firearm injury with research, evidence-based practice, and community partnerships – particularly to black and brown communities. Our activities have never been more urgent than in this deeply traumatic moment.

We personally recommit to the work needed to dismantle and eradicate racism in our society at every opportunity. We hope that you will join us as we challenge ourselves to promote justice and equity in leadership, research, and community-based interventions. As an organization, AFFIRM rededicates its efforts to share what we know and to carry out research to discover new interventions that address the public health crisis of firearm injury.

We will continue to promote evidence-based change to address racism’s causative role in all forms of firearm injury, including police shootings. We will continue to strive to support the careers of young Black men and women in medicine in honor of the memory of Dr. Tamara O’Neal. We stand in absolute solidarity and alliance with those who demand their rights to exist and to have their lives matter.

Most of all, to become more effective in our efforts to formulate and implement a thorough public health approach to solving firearm injury in our country, we invite our AFFIRM community to join us in not just facing our country’s history, but also changing it.

To carry the energy of this moment forward, AFFIRM will bring together health and firearm stakeholders at a Reframe event dedicated to addressing the coexisting epidemics of racism and gun violence in our country, and will leverage the narratives and expertise of our profession and our communities to identify new opportunities for prevention. We will provide our best evidence to move the needle on preventive interventions so all of us – individually and collectively – can reduce the synergistic harms of racism and firearm injury among our patients and our society.

We invite you to join us as we plan, prepare for and bring this event to fruition. We look forward to working with you to create the change we all want to see. Thank you for continuing this work with us.

Kind regards,
Megan and Chris



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