How a database helps prevent violent deaths

Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) has been crucial in helping policymakers, health care workers, and researchers understand more about what leads to violent deaths, including homicides and suicides, and how to help prevent them.

In a November 22, 2019 “Hard Data” podcast, Cathy Barber of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health discussed her role in helping create the NVDRS, a 20-year-old database that enables researchers to drill down into facts about violent deaths.

Barber, senior researcher at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, said that before the creation of the NVDRS, there was a lot of information about violent deaths, and especially about suicides—in reports from police, medical examiners, coroners, and funeral directors—that was not getting recorded in a useable database. The NVDRS has helped address that problem.

For example, NVDRS information about suicides has shown that many are unplanned, and that suicide attempts are more likely to succeed when the suicidal person has access to a firearm, Barber said. “Having a gun at home increases a person’s risk for suicide death—not because they’re more likely to be suicidal, just because if they are to become suicidal, they are more likely to die in their attempt,” Barber said. Information like this is important because, as Barber noted, “if we know who to target, we can get the message out about suicide prevention and about safer gun storage.”

Listen to the podcast: Hard Data – The National Violent Death Reporting System