BOCA RATON, FL - Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., Dr.P.H., the first Sir Richard Doll professor and senior academic advisor to the dean in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University has reported in a commentary published in the current issue of the American Journal of Medicine that homicide is, far and away, the leading cause of death in young black men (ages 15 to 24), surpassing unintentional injuries, suicide, cancer, HIV and other diseases combined. In contrast, the leading cause of death among young non-black men and women of all races and ethnicities is automobile accidents.
These circumstances are referred to as "A New American Tragedy" in this publication co-authored by Joanna Drowos, D.O., M.P.H., assistant professor of clinical biomedical science in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and Robert S. Levine, M.D., professor of family and community medicine at Meharry Medical College where Hennekens is an adjunct professor.
"Compared to all other developed countries, the overall homicide rates in the United States are about seven times higher and homicide rates from firearms are about 20 times higher," said Hennekens. "In 15 to 24-year-olds, firearm homicide rates in the U.S. are about 43 times higher than in other developed countries. Among young black men, the devastation homicide inflicts is a potentially preventable epidemic."
In this regard, Hennekens and his colleagues state that "all attempts to address this complex issue should include, but not be limited to, optimizing the health of the general public, the strength of the existing evidence which is limited to descriptive data useful to formulate but not test the question, as well as the constitutional right of individuals to bear arms."
"Combating the epidemic of mortality due to firearms without addressing firearms is analogous to combating the epidemic of lung cancer due to cigarettes without addressing cigarettes," said Hennekens.
The authors conclude that individual behavior change is an important and necessary strategy, but they also state that major societal changes amenable to responsible government but beyond individual control, are also needed to combat this epidemic.
Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida.