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Penn Medicine News: Gun Violence Exposure Associated with HIgher Rates of Mental Health-Related ED Visits by Children

From Penn Medicine News: Exposure to neighborhood gun violence is associated with increased odds of mental health-related pediatric Emergency Department (ED) visits among children living within four to five blocks of a shooting, according to research by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, published today in JAMA Pediatrics. The study revealed a significant increase in pediatric mental-health related ED visits following incidents of neighborhood gun violence, most pronounced in the two weeks after the shooting, among children residing closest to where the violence occurred, and among children exposed to multiple shootings. Of the 54,341 patients included in the study, 43,143 had one or more ED visits in the 60 days following a shooting, and 42,913 had one or more ED visits in the 60 days prior to a shooting. Of the 2,629 shooting incidents in the data set, 814 (31%) had one or more corresponding mental health-related ED visits in the 60 days following the shooting. Children residing within an eighth of a mile, or 2-3 blocks of an episode of gun violence, had greater odds of having a mental health-related ED visit. “Symptoms of mental health distress in children appear within days of being exposed to a single shooting. What’s more, in Philadelphia and other cities across the United States, gun violence disproportionately affects Black children and families, adding to existing health disparities,” said senior author Eugenia South, MD, MSHP, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Faculty Director of the Penn Urban Health Lab. “This research underscores the need to develop public health interventions aimed at both reducing children’s exposure to gun violence and mitigating the mental health symptoms associated with this exposure.” Read the full story at Penn Medicine News.