Northwell Receives $1.4M NIH Grant to Establish Gun Violence Prevention Screening

The We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue research study is the first of its kind in the US and seeks to significantly reduce firearm injury and death

(L-R) Chethan Sathya, MD, director of Northwell’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Michael Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell Health. (Photo: Business Wire)

NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y.--()--Northwell Health has been awarded $1.4 million from the National Institutes of Health to study gun violence prevention and establish and implement a first-of-its-kind protocol to universally screen among those at risk of firearm injury. The grant is part of the health system’s “We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue” research study, which aims to shift the paradigm to view gun violence as a public health issue and approach firearm injury risk similarly to other health risk factors that are part of routine care, like smoking, substance use and motor vehicle accidents.

We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue will establish evidence-based screening and intervention strategies within three of its hospitals. Led by Drs. Chethan Sathya, director of Northwell’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention, and Sandeep Kapoor, the study will pilot at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, NY, Cohen Children’s Medical Center, a pediatric trauma center on the Queens-Nassau County border that is the accepting facility for adolescent trauma for more than five counties, and Staten Island University Hospital — each of which are in regions with critical need for firearm injury and mortality prevention, and areas with at-risk youth.

Northwell plans to expand We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue across the health system.

“Gun violence is a public health issue and this NIH-funded study is a step in the right direction to finally addressing it as one,” said Michael Dowling, Northwell president and CEO. “Unfortunately, we have been dealing with two pandemics — COVID-19 and gun violence. By screening for firearm safety in our facilities, we can better understand how and why this senseless blood shed continues to increase at historic rates.”

Northwell received the NIH grant as gun violence continues to rise across the country and remains the leading cause of premature death in the US — nearly 40,000 people dying each year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In August, shootings doubled and murders increased 50 percent in New York City, according to the NYPD, compared to the same timeframe in 2019. Since May, there have been 791 shootings in New York City alone, which was a 140-plus percent increase over the same period in 2019.

“The glaring statistics continue to spike not just here in New York, but across the United States as well,” said Dr. Sathya, who is also associate medical director for trauma and a pediatric general and thoracic surgeon at Cohen Children’s. “This NIH grant will fully support We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue and allow us to expand upon the limited clinical studies that have primarily focused on outpatient settings or used targeted vs. universal screening, which can exclude at-risk patients.

“Adherence is key, and We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue combined with Northwell treating gun violence as the public health issue will push boundaries, eliminate knowledge gaps and prevent accidental deaths and even suicides.”

Under We Ask Everyone. Firearm Safety is a Health Issue, clinicians in the ED will ask patients specific questions about having firearms in their homes and determine their risk of injury. Each response is scored and embedded into the patient’s electronic health record, which will help guide discussions and establish next steps for care. Motivational interviews, education and other resources will also be available.

The study follows a similar protocol as the health system’s Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), a screening program that was implemented in its emergency departments several years ago to identify substance use and connect patients to treatment. Through SBIRT, Northwell completed 1.5 million patient screens across 18 EDs and many inpatient and outpatient settings, resulting in 23,000 brief interventions and 8,000 referrals. SBIRT was initially federally funded and has since been sustained across the health system.

“We are creating opportunities for patients to speak with their trusted clinical teams about firearm safety and recognize firearm safety as a health care issue,” said Dr. Kapoor, AVP for addiction services for Northwell’s Emergency Medicine Services and director of SBIRT. “As we have seen with SBIRT, we can make a difference for our communities by asking the right questions and providing the right education and connections to resources.

“The objective here is mirror that success and reverse the trend of rising suicides and preventable firearm injuries and deaths. It’s a major sea change for health care and can prove to be a significant tool in fighting the gun violence epidemic.”

Northwell and gun violence

The NIH grant builds on the momentum from Northwell’s 2019 Gun Violence Prevention Forum, where Mr. Dowling’s call-to-action encouraged health care and political leaders to work for sensible gun legislation, more investment in mental health, more education and greater preparation for staff and communities. He also pledged $1 million to the effort, which helped establish the Center for Gun Violence Prevention.

Mr. Dowling also appointed Dr. Sathya to head the center, which is tasked with shaping the role that health systems play in advancing safety, education, prevention and research, and he formed an advisory committee comprised of prominent voices on gun violence prevention.

Northwell is scheduled to host the second Gun Violence Prevention Forum virtually on December 10.

About Northwell Health

Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, nearly 800 outpatient facilities and more than 14,200 credentialed physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 74,000 employees — 18,500-plus nurses and 4,500 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners — are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit and follow us @NorthwellHealth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.


Barbara Osborn


Barbara Osborn