Data lacking on primary care intervention for child abuse

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 17, 2013

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Although child abuse is a serious health problem, there is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against primary care interventions to prevent such abuse, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The finding was published in the June 11 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (link).

The recommendation applies to children who do not have signs or symptoms of abuse, the task force said. The panel’s focus on preventive interventions for child maltreatment differs from the task force’s 2004 child abuse guidance, which was centered on screening and treatment. Both recommendations said there is insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms.

In 2011, child abuse and neglect affected about 680,000 U.S. children and led to the deaths of an estimated 1,570, the task force said. In making its recommendations, the panel commissioned a review of studies published between 2004 and 2013 on interventions to prevent maltreatment for children at risk.

Panelists found that most of the studied abuse prevention programs focused on home visitation, which tends to be a community-based service. The evidence for interventions in primary care is limited and inconsistent, and therefore insufficient to make a recommendation, the task force said. Researchers found little evidence of possible harms of child abuse interventions.

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