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IOM Urges Coordinated Research Enterprise for Child Abuse

Rates of physical and sexual abuse have declined since 1993, but considerable underreporting

FRIDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Although child abuse rates appear to be declining, the complexity of child abuse and neglect necessitates development of a coordinated research enterprise, according to a report published Sept. 12 by the Institute of Medicine.

To update the National Research Council 1993 report, Anne C. Peterson, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan in Kalamazoo, and colleagues reviewed the literature relating to child abuse and neglect and recommended research priorities for the next decade.

According to the report, over the last 20 years, the rates of physical and sexual abuse of children, although not neglect, appear to have declined, although incidence rates are hard to determine accurately due to underreporting. Suggested reasons for the decline in abuse include policy and practice reforms with more aggressive prosecution of offenders; more effective treatment for victims; and increased investment in prevention programs. To develop a coordinated research enterprise for child abuse and neglect, the committee developed recommendations in four areas, including development of a national strategic research plan, focusing on priority topics and delineating accountability steps; creation of a national surveillance system; development of the structures needed to train high-quality researchers to conduct related research; and creation of mechanisms for conducting this research.

"Child abuse and neglect are a serious public health problem that has broader and longer-lasting effects than bruises, broken bones, or psychological trauma," Peterson said in a statement. "The impacts cascade throughout victims' lifetimes, not only affecting them but also their families and society."

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