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Examining the Link between the Social Determinants and Gun Violence

August 17, 2021  |  Article


Yogin Shroff, Senior Partner and Chief Operating Officer

What can healthcare organizations and public health leaders do to mitigate adverse health outcomes from gun violence?

The Social Determinants of Health represent socioeconomic risks covering the spectrum of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Environment plays an important role in the SDoH constellation – specifically development and upbringing, neighborhood, crime rates and safety. Among these factors, gun violence rates highly as a predictor of neighborhood risk, and this has important implications for health equity.

To put this in context, consider that black Americans experience roughly 10 times the gun homicides, 15 times the gun assault injuries and 3 times the fatal police shootings of white Americans.1

The current rate of gun violence in America is a trend with no signs of slowing.2

Compounded by the pandemic and its many effects, 2020 became the deadliest year for gun crime in recent history. The trend continues in 2021 with more than 26,000 gun violence deaths occurring to-date.2

Social conditions are a motivating agent for gun violence

Gun violence arises from many sources, however its primary drivers are social factors. First, those who are exposed to gun violence are more likely to engage in future gun violence behaviors. Next, firearm violence is highly correlated with behavioral health conditions such as drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness.3 The Social Determinants of Health – and by extension, social risks – play an important predictive role with respect to gun violence.

Population health outcomes and gun violence exposure

Firearm violence is tied to negative health outcomes as follows:4

How can health innovators mitigate gun violence?

The prevalent issues surrounding gun violence cannot be resolved overnight, but gradual steps may effect lasting change. To illustrate, a study by Dr. Daniel Kim suggests that a 19% reduction in gun homicide rates is possible by building trust between a vulnerable community and government and corporate institutions. Further, expenditures around public assistance programs and unemployment insurance can reduce gun homicide rates by 14%.5

Healthcare organizations and public health officials can be leaders in the charge to reduce gun violence, promote community safety and improve population health outcomes.


1 Everytown Research Group Impact of Gun Violence on Black Americans. Retrieved from

2 Gun Violence Archive (4, August 2021) Gun Violence Archive 2021. Retrieved from

3 Hill, K (2020) Firearm Violence and Social Determinants of Health. Retrieved from

4 The Educational Fund To Stop Gun Violence (February 2021) Community Gun Violence. Retrieved from

5 Noonan, D (17, December 2019) Gun Homicide Linked to Poor Social Mobility. Retrieved from

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