Violence impacts every community in America, and no place — including hospitals and health systems — is immune. It affects our patients and their families, the members of our hospital family and the very fabric of our communities.
Violence has become a major public health and safety issue. To increase awareness of how hospitals and health systems are addressing community violence and to stress the urgency of treating violence as a public health issue, in 2016 the American Hospital Association, at the behest of its board of trustees, launched the “Hospitals Against Violence” initiative. A highlight of this initiative was HAVHope Day on June 9, when more than 130 hospitals, health systems and others raised awareness of efforts to combat violence in their communities, and millions of others joined the conversation via social media.
As another important part of this initiative, the AHA commissioned consultants Milliman to undertake a study to demonstrate the tremendous resources hospitals and health systems put toward anticipating violent events and caring for their victims. The estimate: Community violence cost hospitals and health systems $2.7 billion in 2016.
The report found community resources fall into both proactive and reactive categories. Hospitals are partnering with their communities on violence prevention efforts and with their staff and safety experts on preparedness drills, de-escalation training and a host of other initiatives that vary but are intended to meet the needs of their communities and their colleagues. They also treat victims of violence that erupts in their communities and inevitably finds its way to the emergency department doors. Specifically, the authors found that hospitals and health systems spent $1.1 billion on security and training to prevent violence in hospitals; $852 million (of their own funds) caring for victims of violence; $429 million on medical care, staffing, indemnity and other costs related to violence against hospital employees; and $280 million on preparedness and prevention of community violence.
You can find the report on the AHA’s Hospitals Against Violence webpage — www.aha.org/hospitalsagainstviolence. In addition, the webpage offers innovative examples of how hospitals are engaging community partners to tackle violence before it claims victims, as well as tools and resources that can help support your organization in reducing violence in your community and facility. These include case studies, podcasts and archived webinars, as well as links to national organizations and coalitions also working to address this issue.
Violence affects us all. And treating the root causes and not just the symptoms will take a concerted effort from a broad coalition in every community. Working together we can turn the tide.
Andy Stern (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chair of the American Hospital Association Committee on Governance and a trustee of Medical City Dallas Hospital in Dallas.
Community violence cost hospitals and health systems $2.7 billion in 2016.