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Child Abuse Head Trauma Rates Increase During Recession

But unemployment rates are not associated with the rate of abusive head trauma

MONDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The rate of abusive head trauma (AHT) in children increased significantly in three U.S. geographic regions during the recent economic recession, according to a study published online Sept. 19 in Pediatrics.

Rachel P. Berger, M.D., M.P.H., from the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and colleagues assessed the rates of AHT before and during the recent economic recession for children <5 years of age who were diagnosed with AHT between Jan. 1, 2004, and June 30, 2009. The rates of AHT were compared with county-level unemployment rates in three U.S. regions. The recession was established as occurring between Dec. 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009. For every county with an AHT case, quarterly unemployment rates were calculated.

The investigators found that there were 422 AHT cases in a 74-county region, and that the overall rate of AHT increased significantly from 8.9 in 100,000 person-years before the recession to 14.7 in 100,000 person-years during the recession. No difference was noted in the patients' clinical characteristics when evaluating cases from before the recession compared to during the recession. There was no association between the rate of AHT and county-level unemployment rates.

"Given the high morbidity and mortality rates for children with AHT, these results are concerning and suggest that prevention efforts might need to be increased significantly during times of economic hardship," the authors write.

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