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Database on Gun Injuries Divulges Health Costs

Researchers say it also shows impact of guns on society

MONDAY, Jan. 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A national hospital discharge database could be the best source yet in tracking gun-related injuries in the United States, says a new study.

Researchers say information from a database called the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), which is part of a federal data collection effort, can provide details on everything from length of stay, hospital procedures, outcomes and costs.

In looking at NIS data from more than 1,000 hospitals in 22 states reported for the year 1997, the researchers found that gunshots wounded more than 35,000 individuals.

Most of the victims were male (86 percent), and the database showed that treatment of the injuries cost more than $802 million.

The average length of stay for gunshot injuries was six days, compared with an average of 4.9 days for all medical conditions. And the average treatment cost per assault case was approximately $24,000, with nearly 30 percent of the wounded being uninsured.

The researchers say such detailed information is important in illustrating the substantial impact gun-related injuries have on health, disability and economic factors.

Despite high public concern and debate over gun safety, no other databases offer such details on gun injuries in this country. Data on gun-related deaths is available from the Vital Statistics deaths census, and another database called the National Violent Death Reporting System is in development at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but neither provide information on non-fatal injuries, say the researchers.

A database that does collect information on gunshot injuries, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, doesn't go into the detail that's offered by the NIS, and the researchers recommend the NIS be incorporated into a comprehensive national system for tracking gun-related injuries.

The findings appear in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

More information

Here's more information on firearm injury from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, news release, Dec. 28, 2002
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