Firearm Injury Encounters in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), 2010-2015
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Lucero-Obusan, C., Wendelboe, A., Schirmer, P., Oda, G., & Holodniy, M. (2017). Firearm Injury Encounters in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), 2010-2015. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.5210/ojphi.v9i1.7716

Abstract

IntroductionFirearm violence is an issue of public health concern leading tomore than 30,000 deaths and 80,000 nonfatal injuries in the UnitedStates annually.1To date, firearm-related studies among Veteranshave focused primarily on suicide and attempted suicide.2-5Herein,we examine firearm violence among VHA enrollees for all manners/intents, including assault, unintentional, self-inflicted, undeterminedand other firearm-related injury encounters in both the inpatient andoutpatient settings.MethodsInpatient and Outpatient encounters with one or more ICD-9-CM firearm external-cause-of-injury codes (E-codes) from1/1/2010-9/30/2015 were extracted from the VHA’s Praedico™Public Health Surveillance System, including demographics, era ofservice/eligibility, encounter type, and deaths. Firearm E-codes wereclassified for manner/intent based on the CDC’s Web-based InjuryStatistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS™) matrix.6Outpatient/emergency department (ED) data were exclusively fromVHA facilities (a single pediatric patient seen as a humanitarianemergency was excluded from the dataset). Inpatient data includedVHA facilities and some records received from non-VHA facilities.VHA rate of hospitalization for firearm-related admissions wascalculated using the total VHA acute-care admissions for the sametime period as the denominator.ResultsDuring the time frame examined, 5,205 unique individuals wereseen with a firearm E-code. Of these, 4,221 were seen in the outpatient/ED setting only, 597 in the inpatient setting only, and the remaining387 had encounters in both the outpatient/ED and inpatient settings.VHA firearm admission rate was 1.63 per 10,000 VHA admissions,compared to a national rate of 1.96 per 10,000 in 2010.7Table 1 showsthe breakdown of encounters by manner/intent. Unintentional was themost common firearm injury manner/intent. Overall, the median age atinitial encounter was 54 (range 19-100 years), and 96% were male. Thehighest percentage served in the Persian Gulf War Era (2,136, 41%),followed by Vietnam Era (1,816, 35%) and Post-Vietnam Era (716,14%). The greatest number of patients with a firearm-coded encounterresided in Texas (453), California (349), Florida (326), Arizona (214)and Ohio (212).ConclusionsUnintentional injuries were the most common form of firearminjury among VHA enrollees, representing over half of alloutpatient/ED firearm encounters and more than twice the numberof firearm hospitalizations compared with any other manner/intent.Limitations include that not all U.S. Veterans are VHA enrollees;miscoding and misclassification of firearm-related injuries may haveoccurred; and data from non-VHA outpatient/ED encounters andsome non-VHA hospitalizations are not available to our surveillancesystem for analysis. Additional study is needed to further understandthe epidemiology of firearm-related injuries among Veterans andinform VHA leadership and providers
https://doi.org/10.5210/ojphi.v9i1.7716
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