Did you know that Mississippi had the nation's highest firearm mortality rate in 2020? Jackson, the state's capitol, in 2021, had a homicide rate three times higher than the national rate of murders. During that same year, UMMC, the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the state, provided care to 1,129 patients with injuries from firearms or related violence.
Firearm violence disproportionately impacts minority populations, males and young adults. It is the leading cause of death among Black, non-Hispanic men between 20 and 44 years of age and the third leading cause of death among Hispanic men of the same age.
There is a strong need in the Mississippi, Jackson metro area for such research to investigate the risk factors of firearm violence and provide resources for survivors and their family members to go back to life. The Mississippi VIP Program will support collaborative research and initiatives led by the community that help to reduce gun and related violence in Mississippi.
"The Violence Injury Prevention (VIP) program represents a change in mindset in the treatment gunshot victims receive, going beyond patching up bullet holes and discharging patients to return to the circumstances that contributed to their injuries." – Dr. Lei Zhang, Principal Investigator
This program will help transition our ability to care for victims from a reactive, physical injury-focused approach to a more holistic, community-based focus. In addition to increasing survival with high-quality medical and surgical care, it aims to decrease the incidence of gunshot wounds in the first place. We think this approach will work because it relies not on doctors and hospitals telling patients what to do, but instead on hospital and community providers coming together to address the needs identified by communities injured by gun violence.
"There is also the concept of the 'golden hours' of trauma that occur after a patient has been injured," says co-principal investigator Dr. Laura Vearrier. "In the immediate aftermath of trauma, patients experience complex emotions that may lead them to contemplate retaliation or consider lifestyle changes. This impressionable time opens an opportunity to facilitate positive change."
Housed in the School of Nursing, the program consists of 11 investigators from nursing, surgery, emergency medicine, psychiatry, preventive medicine, data science and two support staff.
The NIH grant, awarded over five years, will consist of two parts. During the first two years, researchers will survey patients on the root causes of their injuries, which include economic stress, housing instability, adverse childhood experiences and mental health issues. In the last three years, the team will help develop community- and hospital-based resources to address those causes and integrate them into outreach efforts and patient care.
The VIP program represents a change in mindset in the treatment gunshot victims receive, going beyond patching up bullet holes and discharging patients to return to the circumstances that contributed to their injuries.
Mississippi had the highest firearm mortality rate in the nation in 2020, and Jackson's homicide rate was three times higher than the rest of the state and 15 times higher than the nation in 2021. Mississippi also has the highest prevalence of IPV according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This grant," says co-principal investigator Dr. Matt Kutcher, "helps support an opportunity for us to turn this around, to make UMMC not just the state's only Level 1 trauma center, but to make it into a national example of what health care can look like when it is tightly linked to the needs and voice of the community."
This UMMC program is in collaboration with the Community Firearm Violence Prevention Network, a National Institutes for Health (NIH) supported community-academic research collaboration working to prevent firearm violence across the United States through developing, implementing, and evaluating innovative community-based interventions.
In the News
MS-VIP got wide media coverage across the state of Mississippi: