1.4 million. 24,849. 19,651. 

These numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics refer to: the number of hospital emergency department visits for assault (2021), the total number of deaths by homicide (2022), and the number of homicide deaths by firearms in the United States (2022).

Violence has been with us since our nation’s founding, encompassing various forms such as gun violence, domestic violence, hate crimes and more. It affects every community and tears at the fabric of our society, with lasting physical and psychological effects. And it seems to be getting worse.

Violence throughout our society is drawing attention at the highest levels. This afternoon, I represented the AHA at a White House convening. This session united several dozen hospital and health system CEOs, who came together with federal officials to underscore the effects of gun violence as a threat to public health. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm shared updates about the department’s efforts to address the issue. 

America’s hospitals and health systems experience firsthand the devastating impact all forms of violence have on individuals’ lives and health. And they see how violence can ripple through a community, affecting not just the injured but their family, friends and neighbors.

As beacons of healing, comfort, care and hope, hospitals and health systems are collaborating with community partners to address this important issue.

For nearly a decade, the AHA’s Hospitals Against Violence (HAV) initiative has shone a light on how hospitals and health systems are working to: heal victims of violence as well as their communities, prevent further acts of violence, and address violence in the workplace. The AHA working with partner organizations has developed and shared a number of resources for hospitals to use to address community and workplace violence.

Tomorrow, for the eighth consecutive year, AHA is leading #HAVhope Friday — a National Day of Awareness to end violence. #HAVhope unites hospitals, health systems, nurses, doctors, health care professionals and individuals from communities across the country in sharing their commitment to ending violence and highlighting impactful innovative strategies and partnerships. Please take a few minutes to view our #HAVhope resources and see on social media many inspiring examples from hospitals and health systems across the country.

Over the past decade, the epidemic of violence within health care settings also has increased sharply. Our dedicated health care workers should be 100% focused on providing lifesaving care without having to worry about their own safety. Hospitals and health systems have implemented numerous programs and efforts to provide health care workers with a safe work environment, but more must be done.

That’s why the AHA is prioritizing enactment of the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act (H.R. 2584/S. 2768). This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would provide federal protections from workplace violence for health care workers, similar to the protections in current law for airport and aircraft employees. So far, we have more than 100 members of Congress and over 30 national organizations supporting the SAVE Act. On #HAVhope Friday and throughout the year, please contact your senators and representatives and urge them to cosponsor this important bill.

No one should have to work in an environment where they feel unsafe. Violence has no place in our communities or in health care settings. It must stop. Working together, we can make it stop.

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