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A truly national National Violent Death Reporting System
  1. Catherine Barber,
  2. Deborah Azrael,
  3. David Hemenway
  1. Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Catherine Barber, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, 3rd floor, Boston 02115 MA, USA; cbarber{at}hsph.harvard.edu

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In the wake of the December shooting deaths of 28 people in Newtown, Connecticut, the White House on 16 January of this year released the administration's plan to reduce gun violence.1 While its centrepiece is a set of legislative initiatives, the plan also seeks to build a strong data foundation from which to learn how best to prevent firearm violence into the future.

A notable component of the plan calls on the US Congress to provide an additional $20 million in annual funding to expand the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) to all 50 states. NVDRS is currently in place in 18 states, where the system is used to collect comprehensive data on suicide and homicide, the number two and three causes of death among people under 40.2

Funding for expansion of NVDRS now rests in the hands of Congress. Assuring that Congress provides this funding should be a priority for the US injury prevention community.

Why? The history,3 characteristics4 and strengths5 of NVDRS have been described elsewhere. In brief, NVDRS provides far more detailed, accessible and actionable data to guide prevention and policy than are available from the individual data sources that it links together, including death certificates, medical examiner/coroner reports and police records. In states without NVDRS, much of the rich information that has been painstakingly collected by these sources languishes unlinked and underused in file folders or computer systems that do not speak to one another. The NVDRS solves this problem.

The need for high quality data on violent death was apparent to Congress in 2002 when the system was first funded and is no less important now as Congress seeks solutions to the problem of mass public shootings and other gun violence. In contrast to data …

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