Michael J. Dowling, Northwell Health's chief executive, calls gun violence...

Michael J. Dowling, Northwell Health's chief executive, calls gun violence a "public health crisis." Credit: Charles Eckert

Northwell Health on Thursday held its second Gun Violence Prevention Forum, as part of its effort to push a national debate on the need for health care leaders to help curtail firearms-related deaths in the United States.

The event included speeches by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has campaigned for stricter gun control measures since 20 children and six educators were killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

It also included former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head during an attack that killed six people. Health care executives and gun safety advocates from around the country also participated on panels.

"When you look at the cost of gun violence in this country, it can't be measured by the number of people who die," Murphy said in an interview with Newsday this week. "On average, 20 people are diagnosed with some form of trauma after one shooting."

Added Michael J. Dowling, Northwell Health's chief executive, "About 40,000 people die yearly from gun violence. If 40,000 died from something else, the health care industry would say, 'We have to tackle this,' and that's what we are doing here."

Dowling has called gun violence in the United States a "public health crisis."

Panels also included private sector executives who said more companies are beginning to speak out about gun violence.

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut attended; he has campaigned for stricter...

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut attended; he has campaigned for stricter gun control measures since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Credit: AP/Susan Walsh

Anna Walker, vice president of public affairs at Levi Strauss & Co., said more business leaders see "a safe space to operate and contribute to this issue."

She said Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh was one of more than 140 chief executives who signed a letter asking the U.S. Senate to pass legislation that would require background checks on gun purchases.

She added that a year earlier, he was one of only four who signed a similar letter.

Murphy said health care executives should speak out and "be present at" gun violence conversations.

"This is your lane," he said.

New Hyde Park-based Northwell, the largest private employer in the state, held its first prevention forum last year, and earlier this year said it was launching a Center for Gun Violence Prevention.

This year's conference highlighted gun violence in cities. For example, through Dec. 6, New York City reported 1,433 shootings, compared to 776 in 2019. Neighborhoods of color in New York are disproportionately impacted by shootings, Northwell said.

Thomas Jackiewicz, president, University of Chicago Medical Center, said at the conference that African-American life expectancy in Chicago is lower than for other groups, and that "25% of the difference is because of gun violence."

Added Dr. Andre Campbell, trauma surgeon at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, "too many people of color" have been victims of gun violence.

Northwell in September also added a question to its routine screening of emergency room patients at some of its hospitals: Do you have access to a firearm at home or in the community?

The question is part of a new screening program designed to analyze patients’ risk for firearm injury.

The program is being funded under a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

"This is something we are still rolling out, so it could be some time before we find patterns," Dowling said.

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