$1.5M grant to support firearm injury prevention research

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The University of Michigan was awarded a $1.5 million federal grant this week to launch a postdoctoral research training program focusing specifically on the prevention of firearm injuries among children and teens.

More than 45,000 individuals across the United States died in 2020 as the result of firearm injuries, 4,300 of which involved children and teens ages 1 to 19.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded a T32 grant exclusively for firearm injury prevention research to the U-M Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention to expand and strengthen its research pipeline by training 12 scholars in this critical field.

IFIP will use the grant funding to recruit and train four postdoctoral researchers each year for the next five years so individuals can explore firearm research and scholarship through multiple disciplines, from social sciences and the arts to engineering, medicine and public health.

U-M committed $10 million to launch the institute last year so teams can generate new knowledge and advance innovative solutions to reduce firearm injuries and deaths.

“The field of firearm injury prevention research is in its infancy because of a legacy of intense polarization around this issue, resulting in limited high-quality science, minimal research funding and a dearth of academic scholars,” said Patrick Carter, co-director of the institute, principal investigator for the new training grant, and an associate professor of emergency medicine and of health behavior and health education.

“This training grant will help us build a stronger research pipeline here at Michigan so that we can apply injury prevention science to find solutions that reduce firearm injuries and deaths, ultimately making our communities safer across the nation. This also will help develop a robust set of scholars that can take advantage of new funding available from federal agencies to find solutions to this national crisis.”

Carter and his U-M colleagues Jason Goldstick and Rebecca Cunningham recently analyzed mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and their research revealed that firearms surpassed motor vehicles in 2020 as the nation’s leading cause of death among individuals ages 1 to 19. Firearm-related fatalities among this age group increased by 29 percent from 2019-20, according to their analysis published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The institute will start its cohort of postdoctoral researchers this summer to train a diverse team of scholars who will work together over two years to formulate and answer critical questions around firearm safety and injury prevention. Postdoctoral researchers also will help develop and test evidence-based strategies that address firearm injuries across the lifespan, from suicide and intimate partner violence to disparities in susceptibility to firearm injuries by race, gender, geographic location and socioeconomic status.

“As a university research community, we have an obligation to use our knowledge, skills and partnerships to address this national problem,” said Marc Zimmerman, co-director of the institute and the Marshall H. Becker Collegiate Professor of Public Health. “We are honored to receive this funding and utilize it to develop the next generation of scholars, while also building new evidence that can inform local, state and national leaders about best practices for preventing firearm injury of all kinds.”

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