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The Ad Council, Coalition of Health Systems and Hospitals Tackle America's Most Urgent Public Health Crisis: Gun Violence

February 27, 2024 11:15 AM EST

Health care CEOs pledge $10 million toward nationwide public awareness and education campaign aimed at reducing firearm deaths, injuries and impact of gun violence on youth in America

NEW YORK, Feb. 27, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Today at Northwell Health's 5th annual Gun Violence Prevention Forum, the Ad Council announced a new gun violence prevention initiative in collaboration with a coalition of health care leaders to address this urgent public health crisis and its impact on youth.

The Ad Council, America's leading nonprofit driving nonpartisan social change through fully integrated communications initiatives, will lead the development of this new campaign, funded by members of the National Health Care CEO Council on Gun Violence Prevention and Safety. This group of chief executives represents some of the nation's largest health systems and hospitals that are providing funding, strategic insight and issue expertise on gun violence prevention for the campaign. This initial donation of $10 million is the seed of a greater $40 million fundraising goal over the next two years to support the effort's large-scale plans to reduce firearm deaths and injuries in the United States.

A recent analysis of CDC data by KFF shows that firearm injuries have been the leading cause of death among children and teens (ages 1-19) for three consecutive years. Additionally, in August 2023, Northwell Health researchers published a study in the American Academy of Pediatrics' flagship journal that reported 4,752 pediatric firearm deaths in 2021, a number that reflects a 41.6 percent increase from 2018 to 2021. And according to a new poll from the Ad Council Research Institute (ACRI), a majority (79%) of adults in America find gun violence to be one of their top concerns. However, only 26% selected gun injuries as the leading cause of death among children, demonstrating a need for further education. Given this disheartening data, a major focus of the campaign's messaging will be on promoting prevention strategies to curtail gun violence and its impact on youth.

In collaboration with the National Health Care CEO Council on Gun Violence Prevention and Safety, the Ad Council is convening a broad coalition across the advertising, health care, marketing, media and tech industries to develop this new initiative with pro-bono support from creative agency GUT Miami. The campaign seeks to elevate the issue of gun violence in America and its impact on youth, shifting away from divisive, politically charged conversations to those focused on public health approaches that have proven effective in combating this epidemic. With data-driven strategies and expert insights, the campaign will provide people throughout the country with a deeper understanding of the individual actions both gun owners and non-gun owners can take in their homes and communities to protect our nation's youth and save lives.

"Gun injuries are the number one killer of youth in America, a fact that demands action. But it's an issue that cannot be confronted by just one organization alone," said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council. "American hospitals deal with the ramifications of gun violence every day and we're proud to partner with our nation's leading hospitals and health systems, public health experts and some of the best minds in the media and advertising communities to educate individuals on actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of gun violence and make our children, communities and nation safer. Together, we can address this issue head on and reposition it as what this truly is: a public health crisis that impacts us all."

Though tackling the crisis of gun violence may feel like a daunting task—and most Americans believe that gun violence will increase over the next five years—there is common ground and broad agreement on several paths forward. And according to the Johns Hopkins 2023 National Gun Policy Survey, a majority of Americans, regardless of political affiliation or gun-owning status, felt similarly about the potential for these solutions, showing that there are steps we can all take to reduce gun violence in our nation.

"While gun deaths and injuries are still disturbingly high, especially among young people, we are beginning to see progress in making our communities safer, thanks to continued collaboration and partnership like the campaign we are announcing today," said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health president and CEO, whose outreach efforts led to the creation of the National Health Care CEO Council on Gun Violence Prevention and Safety, and who in 2021 established a Gun Violence Prevention Learning Collaborative for Health Systems and Hospitals that now includes more than 600 health care professionals from 38 states focused on the implementation of evidence-based, firearm injury prevention strategies. "I applaud my fellow CEOs who are supporting the Ad Council campaign and implore other health care leaders across the country to take a leadership role in reshaping the public narrative on gun violence." 

"Intermountain Health is pleased to be a part of this important initiative," said Rob Allen, president and CEO of Intermountain Health, which operates a health system in seven western states. "Gun safety is an important part of our community health focus. By focusing on the use of gun trigger locks, safe and secure storage of firearms, and making mental health and suicide prevention resources widely available, our communities are seeing a positive difference."

"Gun violence is a public health crisis for children and their families," said Matt Cook, CEO of Children's Hospital Association, the national voice for more than 200 children's hospitals in the United States. "Children's hospitals are on the frontlines of pediatric emergency care, treating children and teens as they heal from the acute physical and enduring emotional wounds of gun violence, and supporting their families as they recover. It is our duty as an association of children's hospitals to bring awareness to the youth gun violence crisis and we are proud to join with other hospital leaders in a campaign to make children safer."

Health systems and hospitals throughout the country have seen firsthand the toll gun violence takes on communities. They collectively treat tens of thousands of gun injuries annually and health care workers and first responders serve on the frontlines, treating patients and their families. The unique point of view health care providers have in treating victims of gun violence and working to prevent gun violence in their communities will be instrumental in shaping the campaign's strategy, bringing urgency and credibility to this issue in a powerful way.

Lead funding for the new national project spearheaded by the Ad Council has been provided by BJC Health System, Froedtert ThedaCare Health, Inc., Intermountain Health, Johns Hopkins Medicine, MedStar Health and Northwell Health. Significant funding has also been provided by Children's Hospital Association, Endeavor Health and Yale New Haven Health. The new initiative builds on the success of existing efforts, activations and campaigns from these health systems and hospitals and brings together a unified force across industries to more holistically address this crisis. All funds raised for this new $40 million initiative go toward the research, development and creation of campaign assets—per the Ad Council model, campaign materials are run in time and space donated by the media.

To further ensure all campaign communications are evidenced-based, the Ad Council has convened an Issue Advisory Council comprised of subject-matter experts in gun violence prevention. These advisors represent a wide range of expertise, including public health, epidemiology, suicide prevention, mental health, community and interpersonal violence, policy, as well as perspectives as gun violence survivors, and will help guide the campaign's strategy and messaging:

  • Christian Heyne – Chief Programs and Policy Officer, Brady
  • Nicole Hockley – Co-founder and CEO, Sandy Hook Promise
  • Dr. Kurt Michael – Senior Clinical Director, The Jed Foundation
  • Dr. Ali Rowhani-RahbarBartley Dobb Professor for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Interim Director of the Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program, University of Washington
  • Dr. Chethan Sathya – Director, Northwell Health Center for Gun Violence Prevention; Pediatric Surgeon, Trauma Director, Cohen Children's Medical Center
  • Anthony Smith – Executive Director, Cities United
  • Dr. Laura Vargas – Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Anschutz Medical Center
  • Dr. Ashley Williams – Trauma, Acute Care & Burn Surgeon, USA Health University Hospital; Director, USA Center for Healthy Communities; Founder & Director, Project Inspire

Building from the model developed by the Ad Council for its groundbreaking COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative, which reached more than 75% of those eligible to get vaccinated against the virus, the nonprofit is evolving this approach to comprehensively address gun violence prevention. This includes a coalition-based and multi-audience approach, mobilizing the advertising, media and marketing industries to tackle gun violence prevention in America.

Data shows intervention exists in many forms for gun violence prevention. This new effort will complement both the successful "End Family Fire" and forthcoming Extreme Risk Laws Education campaigns developed by the Ad Council and Brady. These campaigns focus on two evidenced-based solutions, safe gun storage and education on state-level extreme risk laws, assuring responsible access and safeguarding of guns to prevent gun violence.

The Ad Council
The Ad Council convenes creative storytellers to educate, unite and uplift audiences by opening hearts, inspiring action and accelerating change around the most pressing issues in America. Since the non-profit's founding, the organization and its partners in advertising, media, marketing and tech have been behind some of the country's most iconic social impact campaigns – Smokey Bear, A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, Love Has No Labels, Tear the Paper Ceiling and many more. With a current focus on mental health, gun safety, the opioid epidemic, hate and bias, skill-based hiring and other critical issues, the Ad Council's national campaigns encompass advertising and media content, ground game and community efforts, trusted messenger and influencer engagement, and employer programs, among other innovative strategies to move the needle on the most important issues of the day.

To learn more or get involved, visit AdCouncil.org, join the Ad Council's communities on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, and view campaign creative on YouTube.

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SOURCE The Ad Council



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