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Child Abuse, Neglect a Major Public Health Problem: CDC

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Child abuse and neglect cost the United States $124 billion a year, which is comparable to the costs of other major public health problems, a new government study shows.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed 1,740 fatal and 579,000 nonfatal cases of child maltreatment over the course of one year.

The investigators found that the lifetime cost for each victim of nonfatal child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) was $210,012. That's higher than the per-person lifetime cost of stroke ($159,846) and similar to the per-person cost of type 2 diabetes (between $181,000 and $253,000).

The average lifetime cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment includes: $32,648 in childhood health care costs; $10,530 in adult medical costs; $144,360 in lost productivity; $7,728 in child welfare costs; $6,747 in criminal justice costs; and $7,999 in special education costs.

The total estimated lifetime cost for fatal child maltreatment includes $14,100 in medical costs and $1,258,800 in productivity losses, according to the study published online Jan. 31 in Child Abuse & Neglect, The International Journal.

"No child should ever be the victim of abuse or neglect -- nor do they have to be. The human and financial costs can be prevented through prevention of child maltreatment," Linda Degutis, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in an agency news release.

Research has shown that child maltreatment has many harmful effects on survivors, including poorer health, social and emotional difficulties, and decreased economic productivity.

"Federal, state and local public health agencies, as well as policymakers, must advance the awareness of the lifetime economic impact of child maltreatment and take immediate action with the same momentum and intensity dedicated to other high profile public health problems -- in order to save lives, protect the public's health, and save money," Degutis said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about child abuse.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Feb. 1, 2012

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