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Alarmingly High Rates of Child Abuse in U.S. from Poverty?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Yale report finds alarming rates of child abuse in U.S.

Yale School of Medicine researchers report alarming rates of child abuse in the United States. According to the new study, the numbers are higher than the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For Medicaid covered children, the rates were 6 times higher than children not on Medicaid.

The investigation, led by John M. Leventhal, M.D., professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Child Abuse and Child Abuse Prevention Programs at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital tracked hospital admissions from the 2006 Kids' Inpatient Database (KID) to find the severity of the problem in the U.S.

Injuries coded as abuse that resulted in hospital admission was considered serious for the analysis. In 2006, 4,569 children were hospitalized in the U.S. from serious abuse and 300 children died; those in the first year of life were at highest risk.

"These numbers are higher than the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (about 50, per 100,000 births), which is alarming," said Leventhal.

Children covered by Medicaid had rates of serious abuse about six times higher than those not on Medicaid. "This speaks to the importance of poverty as a risk factor for serious abuse."

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According to Michigan’s “Kids Count” data report for 2009, child abuse and neglect increased16 percent from 2000 to 2008.

Primary Prevention of Child Abuse”, says children who live in families with an annual income less than $15,000 are 22 times more likely to be abused or neglected, according to a previous report written by Denise Reynolds, RD for EmaxHealth.

Reynolds wrote, "Stressors such as unemployment, single parenthood, limited access to health care, housing instability, and exposure to environmental hazards contribute to neglect. Substance abuse is another known risk factor, with an estimated 40% of confirmed cases of child abuse being related to parental substance abuse.”

The new finding supports the link between poverty and child abuse and highlights the importance of prevention. The cost of child abuse is an estimated $73.8 million each year from hospitalization, found at alarming rates in the U.S. Medicaid covered children from low income households were six time more likely to suffer serious abuse leading to hospitalization.

Pediatrics Vol. 129, No. 3 (March 2012)
"Using US Data to Estimate the Incidence of Serious Physical Abuse in Children"
John M. Leventhal, MD et al.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons



Given the abundant research on vitamin D deficiency rickets, which shows that very low vitamin D levels in babies and Mothers are extremely common in US generally it seems that the first step in ascertaining the cause of injuries in babies must be checking for vitamin D deficiency rickets. Rickets causes multiple fractures WITHOUT abuse. It is emperative all babies and children be tested for vitamin D - 25(OH)D - levels. Is it actually an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency and NOT an epidemic of child abuse? Latest research in UK has raised many questions about this, and has also raised vitamin D deficiency in babies as a possible causal factor in SIDS - please, please all medicos dealing with pregnant women, babies and children - check vit D levels first and foremost. Low vitamin D levels and X-rays of these children's wrists and legs can identify rickets and prevent the parents of babies with fractures without bruising being accused of child abuse. These babies and their parents need treatment of their deficiencies, not to be taken from their parents who are then faces with police cells and court rooms.