Minnesota Hospital CEOs Call Gun Violence a Public Health Crisis
HealthPartners’ corporate headquarters in Bloomington. Courtesy of HealthPartners

Minnesota Hospital CEOs Call Gun Violence a Public Health Crisis

Though they stopped short of advocating for specific legislative changes, the leaders of 10 health systems in the state have pledged to work together to address gun violence.

Two weeks after a mass shooting in Texas that left 19 children dead, chief executives at 10 Minnesota hospitals have declared gun violence a public health crisis.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, the CEOs said it’s time to work together “to prevent the deaths of innocent people of all ages and backgrounds.” The group is composed of chief executives from Allina Health, CentraCare, Children’s Minnesota, Essentia Health, Fairview Health Services, Gillette Children’s, HealthPartners, Hennepin Healthcare, North Memorial Health, and Sanford Health.

“By formally declaring gun violence as the public health crisis that it is, we will collectively seek the solutions required to save lives and stem the tide of violence,” the CEOs said in the statement.

The letter referenced the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, as well as a June 1 shooting at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Locally, Allina’s clinic in Buffalo was the site of another shooting in early 2021, when a dissatisfied patient killed one employee and wounded four others. According to the Star Tribune, the shooter was angry at his provider for ending a prescription for opioids.

Citing federal health statistics, the leaders noted that more than 19,000 Americans died due to gun violence in 2020. They also noted that gun violence was the leading cause of death for children and teenagers that same year. But they stopped short of advocating for any specific legislative changes, such as universal background checks for gun owners.

“Gun violence and its horrific impacts are preventable,” the CEOs said. “It has reached epidemic levels and represents a significant threat to public health.”

In the past, various groups in the health care industry have viewed gun violence through a public health lens. Back in 2016, the American Medical Association – a trade group for physicians and providers – declared gun violence a public health crisis. More recently, health plan giant Kaiser Permanente rolled out plans to establish a center dedicated to studying and preventing gun violence.

Minnesota’s hospitals have worked together on other public health issues, too. In late 2020, a group of Minnesota health care providers and insurers ran an ad campaign urging Minnesotans to take steps to stop the spread of Covid.