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Health systems across the country join Northwell's gun violence prevention effort

Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling hosted a summit

Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling hosted a summit for health care leaders from around the country on how to reduce gun violence in Manhattan in 2019. Credit: Charles Eckert

Northwell Health on Friday said a group of health networks from across the country have joined its Gun Violence Prevention Learning Collaborative.

Northwell, the largest health system and largest private employer in the state, made the announcement one day after President Joe Biden called gun violence in the United States an "epidemic" and a "public health crisis."

Northwell CEO Michael J. Dowling has also repeatedly called gun violence a public health crisis.

CommonSpirit Health in Chicago, University of Chicago Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Medical Center, and other hospitals and health systems have joined the collaborative, Northwell said. The group, which includes more than 300 executives, clinical leaders, researchers and other health care workers, will meet beginning on April 20 to discuss ways for the health care industry to help limit gun violence.

Northwell said the health systems signed on to the campaign before the recent mass shootings of 10 people, including a police officer, in a Boulder, Colorado supermarket, and eight in Atlanta spas.

Biden on Thursday directed the Justice Department to draft measures to address the unregulated sale of kits used to assemble guns that avoid background checks and remain largely untraceable. He said his administration will offer states recommendations to pass their own laws aimed at giving authorities the ability to seize guns from individuals that a court deems a danger to themselves or others.

Dowling called Biden’s actions "an important first step in confronting a public health emergency that is killing tens of thousands of people every year.

"The recent killings in Boulder and Atlanta underscore the reality that gun violence is an epidemic that is not going away on its own," said Dowling, who pledged $1 million in 2019 to create the health system’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention. "As health care providers who have been on the front lines of battling the coronavirus pandemic for the past year, we have an obligation to set aside political concerns, and devote time and resources to identify solutions that will help curtail this senseless violence."

Northwell in December held its second Gun Violence Prevention Forum, as part of its effort to push national debate on what it said is the need for health care leaders to help curtail firearms-related deaths.

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.

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