Health Update: Youths Report Cases of Abuse, Assault in Survey

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One out of four 10- to- 16-year-olds--or 6.2 million children--is a victim of assault or abuse every year, a new national survey says.

One-third of the children surveyed said that they were either assaulted or abused or that someone had tried to victimize them in the previous year. One out of eight children was injured in such attacks, which ranged from hitting to sexual assault, and one out of 100 required medical attention as a result, the survey says.

The Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire conducted the telephone survey of 2,000 children, and the results were published this month in the journal Pediatrics. The figures exclude corporal punishment.

More than half of the children said someone had tried or succeeded in victimizing them.

The study found that there were nearly three times as many assaults by people outside the child's family as there were by family members. In both types, most of the perpetrators were juveniles.

Girls were more likely to be sexually abused than boys--3.2 percent of girls, compared with 0.6 percent. Seventy-two percent of those assaults were committed by acquaintances; 42 percent were by juveniles.

Children who experienced one form of victimization were more likely to have experienced another form as well, the survey found. Black and Hispanic children, those from Mountain and Pacific states, and those from large cities were more likely, in general, to experience assault and abuse, the survey says.

The authors concluded that much childhood victimization escapes official notice. They called on national and state officials to collect comprehensive annual statistics on crime involving youths and the abuse of children.

More Vaccinations: A greater proportion of 2-year-olds were vaccinated in 1993 than ever before, a federal study says.

The study, by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is based on the National Health Interview Survey.

The results were reported in the Oct. 7 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which is issued by the C.D.C.

In 1993, the percentage of children who had received specific vaccines ranged from 16.3 percent who had received three or more doses of the hepatitis B vaccine to 88.2 percent for three or more doses of diphtheria, tetanus toxoids, and pertussis, or D.T.P.

The percentage of children covered by each type of vaccine, except measles, was greater last year than in 1992, the survey found.

Fewer poor children received vaccines than those whose families were at or above the poverty line.

Missed Opportunities: Another federal study that appeared in the same issue of the report found that changing vaccination practices would eliminate many missed opportunities to vaccinate preschool children.

To eliminate the missed opportunities (and insure more widespread vaccination of children) researchers said health-care providers must:

  • Maintain accurate vaccination records.
  • Assess the vaccination needs of children every time they use the health-care system.
  • Not defer vaccination because of a minor illness.
  • Administer needed vaccines simultaneously.

The study was conducted in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Rochester, N.Y., in 1991 and 1992.

Impact of Free Shots

Free vaccines do not guarantee adequate immunizations for poor urban infants, an Indiana University study says.

Even though free vaccines were available to most patients in the study--85 percent of whom received Medicaid--only 67 percent of the infants had received their first set of immunizations by 3 months, and only 29 percent were up to date by 7 months.

The study followed 464 healthy infants born in a municipal teaching hospital in Indianapolis in 1992. It was published in the Oct. 11 Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mothers were twice as likely to have their infants immunized, the study found, if they were married, if they lived with a grandmother of the child, if they had received adequate prenatal care, or if they thought immunizations were easy to get and effective, said the study's author, Dr. Ann S. Bates, an assistant professor at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Education Crucial

In looking at ways to improve immunization rates in low-income and immigrant communities, the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation found that educating parents and community outreach are crucial.

Released earlier this month, the preliminary findings of the one-year project in Chicago indicate that:

  • Residents of low-income and recent-immigrant communities are poorly educated about health in general, including immunizations.
  • Teenage parents believe that health-care providers disapprove of them, so they do not make regular visits.
  • Low literacy and poor English proficiency hinder parents' ability to deal with the health-care system.
  • Parents have difficulty with the bureaucracy, the location, and the hours of health-care clinics as well as with the complicated schedules of immunization requirements.

    TV Watchers No Fatter

    The amount of television a child watches has no bearing on body fat, a study of 3- and 4-year-olds says.

    While the study, published in this month's Pediatrics, found that the most active children tended to watch less television and to do so for shorter periods, the television-viewing habits of children who engaged in average or below-average physical activity were not as well defined.

    The study looked at 191 Texas children who were observed for six to 12 hours a day up to four days over one year.

    Television viewing time was not correlated with body fat, the study said. The thinnest children did not watch more or less television than the most-overweight children.

    --Millicent Lawton

Vol. 14, Issue 08

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