23.11.2023 Equity

Gaps in homicide knowledge

Research on murders in the United States, where Black men are the most common victims, has gaps to be filled after 23 years of restrictions

Scientists identify research gaps in homicide studies funded by American funding agencies | Photo: Shutterstock

A decision taken by US Congress in 1996 appears to have had a profound impact on homicide research. Murder is the leading cause of death among racial and ethnic minorities aged between 1 and 44 years old in the country. Understanding the reasons behind the crime and finding ways to reduce it could save thousands of lives.

However, the “Dickey Amendment,” passed by Congress in 1996, prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies from funding research that could be perceived as promoting or advocating gun control.

In 2019, US agencies began funding research into the topic once more, but a study published in the Journal of Public Health Policy highlighted that the two-decade freeze on funding has left major research gaps in studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), despite the fact that it was not specifically named in the amendment.

After analyzing research on the subject funded by the US agency between 2009 and 2019 (amounting to just 17 studies), the researchers stressed that more studies are needed to understand the burden of homicides in general. They also identified four major gaps that require further work: the impact of this type of violence in rural areas, the impact on the health of those who survive, the role of the health system in preventing violence, and the etiology of hate crimes.

“Our analysis identified data-driven research trends, methodological approaches, and geographic opportunities to study homicides, as well as databases and systems that could be used to understand the causes, associated factors, and consequences,” wrote Professor Maria-Isabel Roldós of the City University of New York and two other researchers from the NIH Office of Science Policy.

According to the authors, one of the study’s key messages is that federal agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, including the NIH, play an important role in prioritizing funding to address the problem and reduce the disparity in healthcare that exists between young Black people and other racial groups.

In 2018, homicide was the third leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24 in the USA (14.4%). Among non-Hispanic Black men, however, it is the leading cause (35.2%) for children aged 1 to 19 and the second leading cause for people between 20 and 44 years of age (28.9%). Among non-Hispanic white men, it is only the fifth leading cause of death (5.1%).

The homicide rate among non-Hispanic Black men in the USA is 12.9 times higher than among non-Hispanic white men, 4.4 times the rate for Hispanic men, and 2.7 times that of Native Americans.


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