It's a problem that often goes unnoticed and unreported. Experts say it crosses economic boundaries and has detrimental impacts on society as a whole. That problem is child abuse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four kids suffers from child abuse or neglect. Between 1,500 and 1,600 kids die from it every year across the United States.
"It is a frequent problem and it is also a problem that causes lifelong issues," said Deb Pullin of the Child Advocacy and Protection Program at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Those lifelong impacts include: being less productive members of society, less likely to excel in school, more likely to go to prison, more likely to abuse their own kids and more likely to take their own lives.
"I think we can approach it as a disease and use many of the prevention methods that we might use for a disease. See where it happens and how it happens and what are some of the early symptoms of the disease," Pullin said.
The Child Advocacy and Protection Program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center works with health care providers to spot the warning signs.
"It may seem like nothing, it may seem so small that we can easily brush it off. But a baby who doesn't move shouldn't have a bruise. And we know that those small injuries are very often precursors to very serious injuries," Pullin said.
They also stress the importance of affordable day care programs and reminding parents they are not alone.
"So whether that is an offer to take one of the kids out for a walk so she can get a break or sitting down with her and helping her problem-solve, that is really important on the individual basis," Pullin said.
The medical center will hold a conference April 11 on campus to bring together people who deal with child abuse on a daily basis, everyone from doctors and nurses to teachers and child care providers. However, it is not open to the public and preregistration is required.
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