ER screening tool can help identify youth at risk of experiencing firearm violence

May 8, 2024
Written By:
Kate Barnes, U-M Office of the Vice President for Research
Concept photo of a nurse interviewing a patient. Image credit: Nicole Smith, made with Midjourney

Doctors may be better able to identify young adults and youth at risk of firearm violence by implementing a new screening questionnaire, according to a study published by researchers at the University of Michigan.

The SaFETy (Serious fighting, Friend weapon-carrying, community Environment and firearm Threats) score is a clinical tool developed at U-M and is believed to be the only free resource of its kind.

It uses four items and a 10-point scale to specifically identify firearm violence risk among young adults and youth. The items include:

  • Frequency of fighting behaviors
  • Number of friends who carry weapons
  • Frequency of hearing gunshots in their neighborhood
  • Frequency of experiencing firearm violence threats

The findings, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, show that those who score higher on the SaFETy score scale are more likely to have experienced some form of firearm violence.

“Youth are being disproportionately affected by firearm injuries, fatal and nonfatal, and firearms are the No. 1 cause of death for children and teens in the U.S.,” said Jason Goldstick, U-M research associate professor of emergency medicine and co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention’s Data and Methods Core.

“By evaluating, tailoring and utilizing tools like the SaFETy score, we can better identify young adults and youth in crisis and, therefore, increase opportunities for intervention and expand access to support.”

Researchers note the preliminary results of the study suggest the SaFETy score may be important for discussions around the allocation of resources for firearm injury prevention. The study also shows the tool may be an effective, and less intrusive, way to identify young adults and youth with firearm violence history, which could be important to both tailoring and implementing interventions.

Related story: Predicting a Patient’s Future Firearm Violence Risk in the Emergency Department