January 11, 2023

Firearm access question as part of health screening


In the US, residents report broad access to firearms. Over half of firearm deaths in 2020 were by suicide. Most people who attempt suicide with firearms do not survive. While routine suicide prevention practices are becoming more common during health care visits, like screening for depression and suicidal thoughts, questions about firearm access remain uncommon. Health organizations more often rely on individual clinicians to decide when and how to address firearms with their patients.

In a new study led by KPWHRI researcher Julie Richards, PhD, MPH, and coauthored by CCHE consultant Elena Kuo, PhD, MPH, researchers explored how patients experienced answering and clinicians experienced using a standardized question about firearm access on a routine mental health questionnaire. 

Asking patients about firearm access may help prevent suicide,” said Richards, “We know patients will answer standardized questions, but also know some patients at risk of suicide choose not to report access. The goal of this project was to understand how we can improve patient-centeredness of the practice of asking.” The findings from this project are informing Drs. Richards’ and Kuo’s new grant funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to optimize firearm suicide prevention in health care.

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To access the full report, click here