As we continue focusing on improving care for those we serve, public policy and advocacy are two areas in which healthcare professionals and organizations avoid, especially if they are fraught with political connotations. Without question, gun control is one such area.
There is an abundance of literature that addresses the value of specific legislation regarding firearms that are meaningful to the health of others. A recent article in Health Affairs by Wallace et al. proved quite illuminating on this topic. The article, entitled, Firearm Relinquishment Laws Associated with Substantial Reduction In Homicide Of Pregnant And Postpartum Women, ascertained that state laws prohibiting possession of firearms and requiring the relinquishment of guns by people convicted of domestic violence-related misdemeanors, were associated with substantial reductions in the homicide of pregnant and postpartum women. However, this decrease was not observed in those states that may prohibit possession, but do not actively require or enforce the relinquishment of firearms.
In considering this article, those in healthcare and related fields, have a responsibility to support these evidenced-based findings in preventing harm. In fact, it’s crucial to recognize that treatments are occasionally broader than simply what we accomplish within the delivery realm. Advocating for policies that prevent harm is just as impactful as using the correct medicine for an illness.
Typically, we tend to avoid public or legislative policy since numerous believe they are not within the purview of healthcare delivery. However, that is an incredibly short-sited viewpoint. Of course, we must respect the rights of individuals, yet only to the point where those rights do not outwardly harm others, especially if they have already proven that they cause harm. This study’s findings should either be a wake-up call for us to advocate for the enforcement of better legislative practices, or for those that have been proven successful, to be shared globally given they help prevent harm to some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Undeniably, some will argue that this is a slippery political slope; but you know what, so be it. To be our best, we must delve into areas that are less than comfortable for us if we are to impact the lives of others significantly. The polarity of individual freedom and its impact on others, is something we must wrestle to the ground. Various people will question where this type of thinking will lead us. Will we end up losing all our individual rights? Will we become a pure socialistic state? Though these are possible concerns, it’s imperative that they not override our need to protect the rights of those in harm’s way.
Undoubtedly, a few may attempt to stretch this logic to extremes; so, it’s our responsibility, as those that are trusted with the lives of others, to maintain the balance that we seek. We must avoid the extremes; and also not fear the extremes as they are leading to worse outcomes. Let us delve into each situation thoughtfully and within its own context and consider the risks and benefits to individuals and the communities in which they reside.