GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — We are looking at gun violence as a health crisis. How can we cure a problem that has taken lives day after day in our community?
Dr. Iulia Vann, the Guilford County Health Department director, spent the last eight months examining the root causes of gun violence.
Like any other disease, she wants to know what’s causing it to spread and how to cure it.
“Compared to other communicable or chronic diseases, gun violence often poses a larger burden on society in terms of potential years of life lost,” Dr. Vann said.
Those shooting victims could have died in homicides, suicides, domestic violence or been unintentional targets.
“Collecting and distributing reliable firearm data is essential to combatting gun violence through this public health framework,” Dr. Vann said.
Combatting gun violence is something Ingram Bell, who runs the non-profit Gate City Coalition, has dedicated her life to.
“It’s exciting to have health officials on board,” Bell said.
Bell feels this gives a holistic healing solution to the problem.
“It gives more focus on the person and not just the situation. So instead of…possibly being on the street selling drugs, they could possibly take a CDL class or start barber school or start beauty school,” she said.
Dr. Vann has a human-centered approach to what her team is doing.
She wants to make sure they think about everyone throughout the process.
“We must craft interventions that address risk factors…these interventions should be routinely tested to make sure their effectiveness and they are addressing the situation in an equitable fashion, and they are rigorously evaluated, so they continue to be successful,” Dr. Vann said.
“If you change someone’s norms, change somebody’s behavior, change, somebody’s thoughts, change somebody’s ideas, they can then change somebody else’s mind, change somebody else’s thoughts, give them the help and the resources that they had, and it can spread. If that spreads, the positive spreads then there is a way that we could definitely decrease the numbers that we do have currently,” Bell said.
Dr. Vann has scheduled more than a dozen listening sessions over the last four months with these organizations and people who are extremely dedicated to addressing gun violence.
“Some of the trends that came out of these conversations: community ownership and involvement, mental health services, access to data and trust,” Dr. Vann said.
“That means the community has a better chance to become healed and whole versus being broken and shattered,” Bell said.
Dr. Vann plans to have listening sessions with Guilford County Schools, Juvenile Court and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.