WHO takes up issue of child abuseBMJ 2005; 331 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7509.129 (Published 14 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:129
- Sophie Arie
In efforts to stop violence against children, the World Health Organization is launching a campaign in which the health sector around the world will play a role. According to WHO, every year across Europe and Central Asia, at least 1300 children die after being beaten or otherwise mistreated by their parents, teachers, or carers. Other deaths are misreported as suicides or accidents, meaning the true figure could be much higher.
For each death, there are also many babies and children in daily misery at the hands of their parents, teachers, or carers. And yet, for now, the problem is little known or understood in many countries across Europe because of social acceptance, taboos, and children's fear of coming forward, which leads to a lack of evidence.
Since 2002, WHO has been arguing that violence is a predictable and preventable health problem. But the overwhelming majority of health centres and many family doctors still see child abuse as mainly the concern of the police and social services.
“What we need is a change of mindset,” said Roberto Bertollini, chief of WHO's environment and health programme for Europe. “The public health approach is a new way of looking at this problem. Evidence is crucial if you want to know what is below the tip of the iceberg—even in well off societies. Public health services are the ones who can gather that evidence.”
Although police …
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