September 27, 2023

Projects share $2.1M to aid firearm-injury prevention research

University of Michigan Office of the Vice President for Research press release

Five research teams at the University of Michigan recently received grants totaling $2.1 million to launch new projects designed to address the root causes of, and potential solutions for, important issues surrounding firearm injury.

The funding is part of a broad federal investment that aims to reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths.

More than 48,000 individuals across the United States died in 2021 as the result of firearm injuries, and firearms are the leading cause of death nationwide for children and teens ages 1-19.

With support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, U-M researchers will lead projects addressing multiple firearm violence topics, including prevention strategies for unintentional firearm-related harms in early childhood, interventions for suicide prevention and strategies to help reduce firearm violence among minority youth.

Federal agencies and foundations have increased funding support in recent years for research projects and programs focusing on a range of topics surrounding firearm injury prevention, such as identifying underlying causes for firearm violence and determining the efficacy of programs and policies implemented to reduce firearm-injury outcomes.

U-M launched the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention in 2019 to address this urgent public health issue with data-driven solutions. The presidential initiative is designed to foster collaboration among researchers and external partners to formulate and answer critical questions about firearm-injury prevention.

“As a university research community, we have an obligation to use our knowledge, skills and partnerships to apply injury prevention science to find solutions that reduce firearm injuries and deaths, ultimately making our communities safer across Michigan and the nation,” said Patrick Carter, co-director of the institute, associate professor of emergency medicine in the Medical School, and associate professor of health behavior and health education in the School of Public Health.

“The benefit of our institute is that the infrastructure can provide researchers of all levels and within multiple disciplines across the university with the scaffolding necessary to advance their research programs within this field and within their schools.

“The collaborative efforts of our team allow us to support their efforts to generate new knowledge and advance solutions that will ultimately decrease firearm injury across the United States.”

Below is a summary of the five U-M firearm-injury prevention research projects recently funded by the federal government. The funding will support operations for the first year of multiyear plans.

New CDC grants

• Alison Miller, professor of health behavior and health education in SPH, and Hsing-Fang Hsieh, research assistant professor in the IFIP, will co-lead a three-year, CDC-funded project titled “Firearm safety and injury prevention during early childhood: A parent engagement approach.”

This study will assess parents’ perceptions of risk and will engage firearm-owning parents of children up to 5 years old with a mixed-methods, community-based approach to develop and pilot a parent-delivered intervention to inform prevention of unintentional firearm injury and death in early childhood.

Total first-year funds awarded: $649,828

• Justin Heinze, associate professor of health behavior and health education in SPH, will lead a two-year project titled “Rigorous examination of anonymous reporting system data to prevent youth suicide and firearm violence: An applied natural language approach.”

This study will analyze school-based anonymous and confidential reporting system submissions to characterize the types of tips reported, what factors influence student tip submissions and content, and whether exposure to training influences tip behavior and content. Heinze also is director of school safety within the IFIP.

Total first-year funds awarded: $350,000

• Cynthia Ewell Foster, associate professor of psychiatry in the Medical School and clinical associate professor at University Center for the Child and Family in the Mary A. Rackham Institute, will lead a three-year project titled “Store Safely: Firearm injury prevention for rural families.”

This study, conducted in partnership with the Marquette County Health Department, will evaluate Store Safely, a multicomponent, online, primary prevention strategy for rural families who own firearms. Ewell-Foster also is the director of the community engagement core within the IFIP.

Total first-year funds awarded: $470,325

New NIH grants

• Daniel Lee, research assistant professor in the IFIP, will lead a two-year project titled “Structural racism and youth firearm violence: Socio-ecological mechanisms and resilience.”

This study will examine the social and psychological link between structural racism and youth firearm violence to inform the development of upstream prevention programs.

Total funds awarded: $156,000

• Brian Hicks, professor of psychiatry in the Medical School, with support and mentorship from senior IFIP faculty, will lead a two-year project titled “Assessing risk for firearm injury and attitudes about new gun violence prevention laws in Michigan to enhance policy implementation.”

This funding allows for advanced training and career development for established NIH-supported investigators in related fields to obtain the skills and expertise to integrate firearm injury prevention work into their research.

Total funds awarded: $518,106