University of Washington School of Public Health

UW SPH News: SPH Responds to Orlando Violence: Shock, Grief & Public Health Questions

SPH Responds to Orlando Violence: Shock, Grief & Public Health Questions

07/07/2016
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In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, Shirley A.A. Beresford, senior associate dean for the University of Washington School of Public Health, issued a powerful school-wide statement. She expressed the School’s shock and grief for the victims of the tragedy, and she highlighted the bigger public health questions that surround gun violence and mental illness.

“Let’s continue to honor our mission, and stand by our SPH values, and intentionally and respectfully communicate with each other to gradually change our culture to truly embrace our differences, celebrate our diversity, and promote public health,” Beresford said.

In her statement, she cited several UW School of Public Health faculty who are committed to research that seeks to reduce death and injury from firearms. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, assistant professor of epidemiology, and Frederick Rivara, an adjunct professor of epidemiology who has been involved in injury research since the 1980s, are currently working to fill the gaps in gun violence research.

Their current research includes a three-year randomized trial designed to evaluate an intervention with gunshot victims at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. The results from their work will contribute to the evidence base that both policymakers and members of the public can use to better make decisions about gun violence.

Beresford, a professor of epidemiology and adjunct professor of health services, also addressed the need to destigmatize mental illness and to press for better mental health prevention and treatment. Several faculty members are involved with this work as well, for example through the Program on Global Mental Health.

Jeffrey Duchin, adjunct professor of epidemiology and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, also weighed in on a blog post. “We need to do more,” he said, citing the need to collect data on and study causes of gun violence, as well as resources to strengthen and enact effective strategies that support gun violence prevention.