Violence Research Initiatives

Violence is a significant public health problem that has profound impacts on lifelong health, opportunity, and well-being, resulting in higher risk of developing physical and mental conditions and experiencing societal challenges. In addition, when firearms are involved with violent events, the risk for injury, mortality, and acute and chronic physical, mental, or behavioral health conditions increases. NIH is committed to supporting scientific research to increase our understanding of effective public health interventions to prevent firearm violence and the trauma, injuries, and mortality resulting from firearm violence.

Given that violence research cuts across many NIH institutes and centers and the central role of behavioral and social science research in violence related research, OBSSR has increasingly played a coordinating role for this research at NIH. These efforts build off and complement existing IC priorities and initiatives focused on specific types of violence such as child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, or elder abuse.

Firearms Mortality and Injury Prevention Research

The FY2020 Further Consolidated Appropriations Act and FY21 Consolidated Appropriations Act each provided 12.5 million dollars of funding to the NIH in 2020 and 2021 to conduct research on firearm injury and mortality prevention by taking a comprehensive approach to studying the underlying causes and evidence-based methods of prevention of firearm injury, including crime prevention. Language in both years noted that research must be ideologically and politically unbiased, that no funds could be used to advocate or promote gun control, and that grantees were required to fulfill requirements around open data, open code, pre-registration of research projects, and open access to research articles.

In 2020, OBSSR helped coordinate input from multiple ICs and developed two Funding Opportunity Announcements, released on March 20, 2020
, that were intended to build upon the existing NIH research portfolio and address emerging opportunities. Awarded projects are listed under each Funding Opportunity Announcement:

  • PAR-20-143: Two-year R61 awards for pilot, exploratory, or developmental projects
    • Evaluating implementation and feasibility of evidence-based universal screening and intervention strategies for firearm injury and mortality prevention among youth and adults in emergency departments (PI: Chethan Sathya; 1R61HD104566-01)
    • A comparison of firearm-related intimate partner homicide in Texas and Maryland: Prevalence, identification of those at risk, and the effect of firearm regulations (PI: Jacquelyn Campbell; 1R61HD104570-01)
    • Family Safety Net: Developing an upstream suicide prevention approach to encourage safe firearm storage in rural and remote Alaskan homes (PI: Lisa Wexler; 1R61MH125757-01)
    • Mechanisms underlying the association of firearm availability and vulnerability to suicide (PI: Craig Bryan; 1R61MH125759-01)
    • Online Storage Maps to Facilitate Voluntary Firearm Storage: Mixed Methods Evaluation (PI: Marian Betz; 1R61MH125754-01)
    • Alcohol restrictions and firearm prohibitions based on mental illness: Effects on fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries (Nancy Nicosia; 1R61AA029064-01)
    • Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention with Project Talent (PI: Benjamin Chapman; 1R61AG072408-01
  • NOT-OD-20-089: One-year administrative supplements to active R01 or R21 grants to expand the research scope to include firearms research
    • Impact of State-Level Policies on Maternal Mortality (PI: Maeve Wallace; 3R01HD096070-03S1)
    • Decision Making Among Older Adults: Firearm Retirement (PI: Marian Betz; 3R01AG059613-02S1)

Please see OBSSR’s blog post which provides additional description on the awards that were made in 2020.

A listing of all NIH awards funded in FY20 in response to PAR-20-143, NOT-OD-20-089, and through investigator-initiated research or in response to NIH FOAS not specific to firearm research can be found here. To access NIH spending amounts and specific awards in violence research or firearms research, view details associated with the Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC) “Firearms Research” and “Violence Research” on NIH RePORTer. Note that the Firearms RCDC is only for FY2020 and beyond.

For FY 2021, OBSSR helped to coordinate input from multiple ICs and developed two Funding Opportunity Announcements, released on March 5, 2021, that had a similar broad and comprehensive approach to firearm injury and mortality prevention. Awarded projects are listed under each Funding Opportunity Announcement.

  • PAR-21-191: Two-year R21/R33 awards for pilot, development, or exploratory projects
    • FOREST (Fostering Optimal Regulation of Emotion for prevention of Secondary Trauma): Implementation and evaluation of a burnout prevention program for staff in gun violence prevention programs  (PI: Judith Moskowitz; 1R21AT011863-01)
    • Shared Decision-Making for Firearm Safety among Older Adults at High Risk for Firearm Suicide (PI: Laura Prater; 1R21AG076362-01)**
  • PAR-21-192: Three-year R01 awards
    • Safety in Dementia: An Online Caregiver Intervention (PI: Marian Elizabeth Betz; 1R01AG076364-01)*
    • Predicting and Preventing Gun Violence: An Evaluation of READI Chicago (PI: Monica Bhatt; 1R01MD017194-01)
    • A Nationwide Case-Control Study of Firearm Violence Prevention Tactics and Policies in K-12 Schools (PI: Charles Branas; 1R01HD108027-01)
    • Firearm violence prevention through community-engaged vacant property reuse: Application of Busy Streets Theory in Detroit (PI: Justin Edward Heinze; 1R01HD108021-01)
    • The Individual, Situational, and Contextual Risk Factors for Violent Firearm Injury and Firearm Homicide: A Comparative, Policy-Focused Approach (PI: Brendan Lantz; 1R01MD017204-01)
    • Risk prediction and optimizing outcomes to 1-year after firearm injury among children using emergency services in the US (PI: Craig Newgard; 1R01HD108017-01)
    • Relationship between lawful handgun ownership and risk of homicide victimization in the home (PI: David Studdert; 1R01AG076382-01)
    • Preventing Firearm Violence in Youth: A hospital-based prevention strategy (PI: Nicholas David Thomson; 1R01HD108025-01)

* Funded by NIA using Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative funds
** Additional funding support provided by NIA using Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative funds

Please see OBSSR’s blog post which provides additional description on the awards that were made in 2021.

All FOAs took a broad public health approach to firearm injury and mortality prevention, encouraging research on interventions delivered by healthcare providers and systems and those delivered in community settings, as well as research that integrated individual, family, interpersonal, community, and structural or system (e.g., criminal or juvenile justice, child welfare, drug courts) approaches to firearm injury and mortality prevention.

As such, these FOAs were comprehensive in their consideration of risk for victimization and/or perpetration across the lifespan and across sexual and gender identities, people with developmental disabilities or cognitive impairments (i.e. Alzheimer’s disease and its related dementias), comorbid conditions (e.g., psychiatric or substance use disorders), or other at-risk populations such as pregnant and post-partum women, justice system involved individuals, veterans, and members of the military. In addition, consideration of NIH health disparity populations (who are often disproportionately impacted by firearm injury and mortality), was encouraged: specifically, Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, underserved rural populations, and sexual and gender minorities.

White House Community Violence Initiative

In April of 2021, the White House published a statement about the Biden-Harris Administration’s investment in Community Violence Interventions (CVI) to combat the gun violence epidemic. This fact sheet identified community-based intervention research as a priority for grant applications with comparable scientific merit submitted to NIH’s Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention Research program.

As part of the White House’s efforts to support communities looking to implement CVIs, a webinar series was established for subject matter experts to present on CVI-related topics. OBSSR has worked with CDC, ACF, DOJ, HUD and other federal colleagues to coordinate this webinar series focused on implementers in the field such as communities and practitioners. Sessions are recorded and uploaded to the Bureau of Justice Assistance YouTube page.

NIH-Wide Violence Research

In 2019, OBSSR initiated a NIH-wide Violence Research WG and convened representatives from relevant ICs at NIH. This WG is tasked with examining the current violence research portfolio across the NIH, identifying gaps and opportunities for current and future research priorities. This WG also serves as a resource for all of NIH to offer expertise in subject-matter areas such as intimate partner violence, elder abuse, child maltreatment, sexual violence, and youth violence. Members of the WG are also a resource for compiling responses to relevant media inquiries and sharing violence-related funding announcements.

OBSSR Support for Violence among SGM Populations Research Effort

The Sexual and Gender Minority Research Office (SGMRO), in partnership with OBSSR, and other NIH institutes and centers, conducted a multi-phased workshop onviolence & related health outcomes in SGM communities. The overarching goal of the workshop was to identify and prioritize key research opportunities needed to further our understanding of violence within SGM communities. This timeline included a Request for Information, a state of the science workshop, virtual working groups, and a final public report out session in August 2021.

Outreach and Public Education

OBSSR also engages the research community and the public through outreach activities. See below for recent events hosted by OBSSR that are relevant to violence research.