BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

The role of Healthcare in Child Maltreatment



Children like every human have basic human rights and child maltreatment in all its forms violates this right. Child maltreatment involves child abuse, child neglect, manipulation or trafficking by the supposed care giver .Child abuse could be physical like inflicting wounds or sexual like oral sex, fondling of genitals, voyeurism and other sexual acts or emotional use words to hurt a child feeling. Child neglect is physical- when a caregiver fails take care of the child; medical- when medical needs are not taken care of; and emotional- when the emotional needs of the child are not met. Children who are particularly at increased risk of maltreatment include: children born into broken homes or those born to mentally ill parents. The fact remains, child maltreatment is a global and public health problem given that one in every four adults report experiencing some kind of abuse or maltreatment as a child.

The consequences of child maltreatment may be immediate death of the child during the process or injury.  Long term results such as psychological issues like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, suicide or emotional brokenness are equally devastating to both the child and the society. There could be physical deformations in cases of physical abuse or extreme sexual behaviors, abnormal sexual cravings and other psycho-sexual disorders in cases of sexual abuse. Medical neglect may lead to complication of an otherwise benign disease while physical and emotional neglect could result in poor emotional understanding and awkward responses even in adulthood. Abused children may grow up to become involved in crimes, substance abuse, violence to cope with their past, and may even abuse other children setting up a vicious cycle that worsens the problem in the society

The public health sector has perhaps the most important role in tackling this problem. There are already education and awareness programs where children are taught, for example, to understand sexual cues like good touch and bad touch, rights as individuals over their bodies. Awareness programs also help train health workers and the general public on ways to recognize physically abused children like children with multiple bruises, especially bruises in unusual areas of the body like the cheeks, ears and back. Physically neglected children may be generally untidy and wear dirty clothes to school while medically neglected ones have an obvious medical condition that’s not attended to. Victimized children tend to be distrustful and withdrawn so it is especially challenging to reach out to them however, their fears should be addressed and they should be assured that they would be properly taken care of. Public officers should be sent more to areas with higher reports of abuse and there should be reliable access to public health services through a phone. They should work with the judiciary to take control of the child as quickly as possible as the child runs the risk of further abuse or even death. Children with psychological problems from abuse should be referred to psychiatrists to assess and help them to find coping mechanisms. Government also has important roles like instituting laws such as serious jail terms for children abusers and proper funding of social and health care services that help fight child maltreatment.

Child maltreatment is not just a problem for public health and the government, it is every ones problem and we must do what we can to protect, guide and save these innocent creatures for posterity sake.

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