West Virginia (WV) had the ninth highest rate of firearm mortality of all states in the United States according to the CDC in 2018. Gun violence in WV has been a steady problem over the last decade. The rural population is more vulnerable to unintentional firearm injuries and suicides. Previously published literature from urban settings has demonstrated a link between firearm injuries and modifiable situational variables such as crime, unemployment, low income, and low education. There are very few studies that have utilized geospatial analytic techniques as a tool for injury mapping, surveillance, and primary prevention in rural and frontier zones of the United States.
We performed a 10-year retrospective single-institution review of firearm injuries at a rural WV level 1 trauma center between January 2010 and December 2019. The AIS World Geocoding Service was then used to identify specific areas of emerging firearm-related injuries within the service area.
Specific hot spots of emerging firearm injury were identified in both intentional and unintentional populations. These were located in geographically distinct areas of the WV unincorporated rural and frontier population. These rural WV hotspots were associated with the modifiable variables of crime, unemployment, lower income, and lower education level.
Emerging hot spots of firearm injury in rural and frontier locations were associated with modifiable social determinants. These areas represent an opportunity for targeted injury prevention efforts addressing these disparities. Further prospective study of these findings is warranted.