by Reading Hospital – Tower Health
With firearms remaining the leading cause of injury and death in children, the nation’s largest regional collaboration of health systems, representing 59 hospitals in Philadelphia, southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southern New Jersey, is kicking off the year with a public service campaign that encourages a community approach to protecting children from unlocked guns.
HospitalsTogether.com is the new name and website for the coalition’s ongoing multi-media campaign called “It Doesn’t Kill to Ask.” The campaign empowers caregivers, parents, and community members to speak up about safe gun storage in homes a child might visit, providing actionable tools and new resources to aid in the process. Research and data show the importance of asking about unlocked guns where children may be present and that gun safety requires a comprehensive approach to prevention, including community education, outreach, and advocacy.
A fundamental part of prevention is normalizing conversations about gun storage. The campaign comes at a time when an average of 13 children die from guns every day, making guns the leading cause of death in children in the U.S. According to Brady United Against Gun Violence, nearly 5 million children live in homes with unlocked or unsupervised guns, and last year there were at least 377 unintentional shootings by children resulting in 145 deaths.
“Across the health system our teams provide life-saving care for children with gun related injuries,” said Christopher Valente, MD, Chief, Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Reading Hospital – Tower Health. “Unfortunately the instances of gun related injuries that impact children are more common than one would think. Prevention, awareness, and education are crucial to decreasing these cases.”
Through a refreshed series of broadcast, print, and digital public service educational messages, along with the newly launched HospitalsTogether.com website, the campaign highlights that access to unlocked guns may lead to death, suicide and violence, making it more likely children will die from guns than cancer or automobile accidents. The website provides tips on how to have a conversation with other parents and families about safely stored firearms and encourages making this conversation as normal as asking about pets or food allergies before a playdate.
The tristate health systems represent the nation’s largest regional collaboration addressing critical public health issues on an ongoing basis. Together, they are committed to tackling the most difficult public health issues that often result in serious and avoidable health consequences and offering messages of prevention and safety, hope and healing. The founding members of HospitalsTogether.com, along with their hospitals, thousands of outpatient sites and hundreds of thousands of physicians, nurses, and other clinical and support staff, are dedicated to making a positive difference in the health of their communities.
“Working with health systems in the region to educate and prevent devastating injuries to the children in our community is a priority,” said Rich Newell, president and CEO at Phoenixville and Pottstown Hospital – Tower Health. “I encourage parents and caregivers to read this information and share it with their friends and family.”
Given the importance of the gun safety public service message across the region, these hospitals and health systems are united in facing this crisis together. They first came together in 2020, when encouraging masking during the pandemic and leading other efforts to help protect public health in local communities. Most recently, they decided to formalize their efforts with the new name for their collaboration and website, calling their collaboration HospitalsTogether.com to demonstrate their commitment to joining forces for the public good.
Impetus for the “It Doesn’t Kill to Ask” campaign and other public service campaigns comes from over 100 healthcare marketing and communications executives meeting regularly for over a decade, sharing knowledge, experience, best practices and resources, knowing they can accomplish more together. Founded and led by national healthcare leader Rhoda Weiss, Ph.D., the expanded coalition partnered with Northwell Health, New York State’s largest health system, in leading the gun safety effort.
Tower Health is a regional integrated healthcare system that offers compassionate, high quality, leading edge healthcare and wellness services to communities in Berks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties. With approximately 11,500 employees, Tower Health consists of Reading Hospital in West Reading; Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville; Pottstown Hospital in Pottstown; and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, in partnership with Drexel University. Tower Health is strongly committed to academic medicine and training, including multiple residency and fellowship programs, the Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health, and the Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences in West Reading. The system also includes Reading Hospital Rehabilitation at Wyomissing; home healthcare provided by Tower Health at Home; TowerDirect ambulance and emergency response; Tower Health Medical Group; Tower Health Providers, our clinically integrated network; and Tower Health Urgent Care facilities across our service area. For more information, visit towerhealth.org.