Dr. Nathaniel Smith, a member of NRA-loving Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration as director of the state Health Department, co-authored an op-ed last week in The Hill that urged addressing mass gun violence as a public health issue.
He didn’t venture into specific remedies. Thanks to the legacy of the late Rep. Jay Dickey (a legacy he repudiated late in life) the federal government is blocked from even backing health research into gun violence.
Smith and Michael Fraser wrote in part:
We believe that the problem of mass violence in the United States can and should be addressed in part from a public health perspective and that the tools of public health research and practice should be fully deployed to help end it.
Just as there is no single intervention to reduce tobacco use or obesity, there is no single solution or “silver bullet” to end our nation’s epidemic of mass violence. Instead, successful interventions will come from all of us working together with community leaders, business leaders, government leaders, and public health leaders to create workable and effective solutions within neighborhoods, communities, states, and across the nation.
Just as tobacco use prevention includes clinical interventions that support an individual’s behavior change and population-based policy change that reduces access to tobacco, preventing mass violence will require a combination of strategic interventions that protect and promote health and well-being at the individual and population levels. These include discussions about firearm safety and mental health, as well as community-wide conversations about how to prevent all kinds of violence.
In addition to being Arkansas’s chief health officer, Smith is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Fraser is chief executive officer of the association.
Approaching gun violence as a public health problem? It’s encouraging from someone on the public payroll of a state firmly in political control of the gun lobby.
It is a measure of our condition here — and much of the U.S. — that it counts as courage for a political appointee to say gun violence is a “public health emergency” and it’s time for “tactics similar to prior campaigns to reduce tobacco use and prevent motor vehicle deaths.”
What’s next? An Arkansas health officer encouraging comprehensive family planning through such proven providers as Planned Parenthood?