Rise in violence is a public health issue, not just a police issue, says Charlotte doctor.


The 22 killings so far this year is a public health issue according to a Charlotte doctor. Not just a police issue. He prescribes a solution, but the pill might be hard to swallow.

"Is violence an illness?"

"Those of us who work in the healthcare field I think would say yes, it is an illness," said Dr. David Jacobs. 

Doctor Jacobs is a medical director and trauma surgeon at Carolinas Medical Center. That’s where he spends most of his time in the operating room. But outside of surgery -- he's battles youth violence as chair of the hospital's violence prevention committee.

"This is not a law enforcement problem."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the national rise in violence a public health issue.

It looks at risk factors and puts out scientifically-based solutions like any other health crisis - like Ebola and HIV.

In North Carolina, the state gathers data on violent deaths from medical examiner reports, death certificates, and incident reports.

The latest assessment came out this month. It's for 2014.

It shows 1,932 North Carolinians died as a result of violence in 2014.

The leading cause was suicide at nearly 70 percent.

While homicide was second in line at nearly 30 percent.

Taking a closer look at homicide.

Men were nearly 4 times more likely to be victims than women.

American Indians and Blacks had the highest homicide rate compared to other races.

And 20 to 24 year olds were among the highest age group violently killed.

Back in Charlotte, Dr. Jacobs says the hospital does its part when victims of violence walk into the emergency room or get rolled into the OR.

"If we see someone who has been shot or stabbed, we know there's a 20-40 percent chance, that they will be shot or stabbed again.

The analogy I like to give people is if somebody came into the emergency room and they had slashed their wrists. We would sew up their wrists, but we wouldn't send them home.

We would recognize something is going on with that patient. Let's get our Psychiatrists involved. Let's get our social worker involved so that we can get to the bottom of why that person slit their wrists so that they don't do that again.

Why should we treat the person who comes in with a gunshot wound any differently?"

With more than 20 homicides in Charlotte this year he says the Queen City needs to make a decision.

"Law enforcement needs to be at the table, but the healthcare system needs to be there, the health department needs to be there, the judicial system needs to be there, the school system needs to be there, the business community needs to be there.

We need to create a coalition of agencies and organizations that will work collaboratively on this issue. The faith community, don't let me leave them out."

Doctor Alex Crosby with the CDC says research shows violence is preventable and that we do not have to accept a certain level of violence.

"Boston implemented a 10 or 11 point violence intervention plan for the city. They went one or two years with zero homicides."

Violence - he says - acts like a disease.

"It passes from generation to generation, it passes from individual to individual, we know what causes it, we know what prevents it so it makes all the sense in the world to treat it like a disease."

So, there is also a treatment.

"Will there always be cancer? Maybe. We have treatments that have reduced the mortality of cancer. Will there always be violence? Yeah. But we have things we can do to reduce the mortality of violence."

On April 7th, Dr. Jacobs plus other experts and community members will discuss why violence is on the rise during the 12th annual youth violence prevention conference in Charlotte. You can get more event information here.

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