St. Louis Children's hospital saw 50% rise in patients with gun injuries amid pandemic

In the first two years of the pandemic, St. Louis Children's Hospital saw the average number of children and teens needing treatment for gunshot wounds increase by 50 percent, St. Louis Public Radio reported Jan. 18. 

The report was based on study findings from researchers at St. Louis-based Washington University and the University of Missouri in Columbia. They analyzed data from the pediatric hospital's emergency room from 2015 to 2022 to conduct the study, which was published Oct. 21 in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery. Overall, researchers found the increase in gunshot injuries among people ages 19 and under during the first two years of the pandemic were driven in part by a rise in assaults and homicides, rather than accidental injuries. 

"A lot of people thought that accidental injuries would be the leading factor, but that's not the case," Mary Beth Bernardin, MD, director of pediatric emergency medicine education at the University of Missouri, told the news outlet. "I do think that probably increased gun ownership and possibly lack of supervision does come into play, but it was really the assaults and the homicides that really drove those injuries." 

The situation is indicative of national trends, with a research letter published in May finding that  firearms surpassed car accidents and cancer in 2020 as the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. 

In recent months, dozens of health systems and children's hospitals have signed on to a gun safety campaign led by New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health. The campaign aims to reduce deaths caused by guns among children by promising to teach community members the importance of asking family and friends whether they have unlocked guns in their homes. 

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