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CAPNET: Improving Child Abuse Care and Outcomes Through Multicenter Research

Statement of Problem

Child physical abuse is a significant source of childhood morbidity, mortality and preventable health care costs. Each year, child protective service (CPS) agencies determine that more than 120,000 children in the U.S. have been victims of physical abuse, however, true incidence is likely much higher as these data have been shown to capture only a fraction of cases.

The health care costs associated with child abuse are staggering due to increased injury severity, longer lengths of hospital stays, higher fatality rates and worse outcomes compared to children with accidental injuries. Even greater are the long-term costs and trauma associated with increased rates of risky health behaviors, mental illness, chronic illness and early mortality among abuse survivors.

In addition, research shows disparities in the rates of evaluation for and diagnosis of physical abuse based on a patient’s racial background and/or socioeconomic status. Recent publications indicate Child Abuse Pediatrics (CAP) physicians are not immune from implicit biases that influence diagnostic decision-making in cases of possible physical abuse. These disparities raise concern for both under-evaluation and under-diagnosis in some groups of children, as well as over-evaluation and over-diagnosis in other groups of children. Research has also demonstrated variation across hospitals in clinical practices to identify and evaluate victims of physical abuse. CAP research capacity has been relatively limited, given the impact of abuse on child health and well-being.

Description

CAPNET: Improving Child Abuse Care and Outcomes Through Multi-center Research

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Relevant, reliable research in child physical abuse is urgently needed to improve the evaluation and protection of abused children.

Next Steps

Relevant, reliable research in child physical abuse is urgently needed to improve the evaluation and protection of abused children and, concurrently, to guard against misdiagnoses that introduce harm by disrupting families and delaying diagnosis of rare diseases. Historically, this research has faced significant barriers, including relatively low numbers of patients in any single center, wide variability in symptoms displayed by patients when receiving care, inconsistency and bias in clinical evaluations, and lack of uniform data measures. CAPNET is establishing a reliable data infrastructure, uniform definitions, and a structured process of career development and data sharing. It is currently being used to simultaneously address multiple, practice-altering research questions, thus helping to protect the health and safety of children.

This project page was last updated in August 2022.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. CAPNET: Improving Child Abuse Care and Outcomes Through Multi-center Research [Online]. Available at: http://www.policylab.chop.edu. [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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