Firearms research at U-M gets $4.6M boost with CDC grants


In a milestone of research funding, three teams of University of Michigan researchers have received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address issues related to firearm injury.

The new multiyear grants, totaling $4.6 million, come from a new source of CDC funding to address a cause of death that kills 109 Americans each day. The 16 new grants to U-M and other institutions are believed to be the first CDC funding that specifically focuses on firearm injury prevention research in more than 20 years.

The grants add to U-M’s more than $13 million in other federal, state, private and philanthropic funding for firearm-related research. That includes a new $1.2 million grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health this week.

In fall 2019, President Mark Schlissel launched the U-M Firearm Injury Prevention Research Initiative, to bring together experts across all three U-M campuses to increase research, scholarship and community engagement on firearm-related topics.

“Gun violence continues to leave a devastating impact on our communities across the United States, with more than 100 people dying each day from firearm-related injuries,” said Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Michigan Medicine.

“Scientific evidence can provide us with important answers to address many public health crises, and so with support from the CDC, we are in position to formulate and answer critical questions about firearm injury prevention.”

On Sept. 23, Cunningham and her colleagues held the second annual FACTS conference that connected nearly 400 firearm researchers and others from across the country. It was convened by the Firearm Safety Among Children and Teens initiative that is based at U-M and funded by the NIH.

At the conference, Schlissel told attendees that “through science, we can bring a clarity that hasn’t been possible before.”

“We too often hear the phrase ‘unspeakable tragedies’ when hearing about Americans killed by gun violence or suicide,” he said. “But I believe that the knowledge you are generating by examining data-driven solutions will speak loudly to the people of our nation. If we give researchers the right opportunities, we can begin to solve this crisis.”

New CDC grants

Exposure to Violence and Subsequent Weapons Use

Led by Rowell Huesmann, research professor emeritus at the U-M Institute for Social Research and Research Center for Group Dynamics, this two-year effort will use data from two long-running studies on young people to look at how risk factors for gun violence shape the use of guns and other weapons into early adulthood.

The work could lead to better community and school-based prevention programs targeting firearm violence and other forms of violence.

Huesmann, who is the Amos N. Tversky Collegiate Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies and Psychology, professor emeritus of communication and media, and of psychology, LSA, directs U-M’s Aggression Research Program.

IntERact: Preventing Risky Firearm Behaviors Among Urban Youth Seeking Emergency Department Care

Led by Patrick Carter, director of the U-M Injury Prevention Center and associate professor of emergency medicine and public health, this three-year project will fund a randomized controlled trial of a technology-enhanced behavioral intervention program that has shown early promise in reducing risky firearm behavior and violence in youth ages who are seen in the emergency department and have reported carrying firearms recently.

Using remote behavioral therapy supported by an innovative smartphone app to deliver content between therapy sessions, the study will determine the efficacy of the program so that it can inform other prevention and harm-reduction efforts in health care settings.

Multi-Site External Validation and Improvement of a Clinical Screening Tool for Future Firearm Violence

Led by Jason Goldstick, research associate professor of emergency medicine, this three-year project will use cutting-edge machine learning methods to optimize the ability to assess young people’s risk for firearm violence so that prevention resources and emergency department interventions can be used efficiently.

It will focus on validating a screening tool called the SAFETY score that emergency department teams can use to identify young people at the highest risk for firearm violence involvement to help direct intervention efforts. 

New NIH grant

Family Safety Net: Developing an Upstream Suicide Prevention Approach to Encourage Safe Firearm Storage in Rural and Remote Alaskan Homes

Led by Lisa Wexler, professor of social work and member of the Research Center for Group Dynamics, the effort will focus on Alaska, which has suicide rates far above national averages, including a teen suicide rate among Alaska Natives 18 times higher than the rate for other American teens.

Using a community-based participatory approach, and culturally specific considerations, the study will support, encourage and assess safe firearm storage practices relevant to Alaska Native families.


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