The World Health Organization report, prepared by Dr. Desmond Runyan of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, concluded that an estimated 57,000 children die each year from physical abuse. Sexual and psychological abuse also are widespread, are difficult to measure and need to be addressed.
"Whether child abuse is uniquely American or Western is a question that's been raised by a number of people around the world," said Runyan, professor and chief of social medicine at the UNC School of Medicine and professor of pediatrics. "Not long ago, a Chilean physician said to me that clearly it happens more in North America than any other place. 'Just look at Medline (an online search engine for medical information),' he said. 'It is American journals that write about child abuse.'"
But just because doctors and others in other countries haven't paid much attention or written about it, doesn't mean abuse is not universal, the UNC scholar found.
WHO asked Runyan, who had done international research on the topic, to write a chapter for its new book-length "World Health Organization Report on Violence and Health" released in Brussels today (Oct. 3).
"Despite all the differences in cultures and the rules about how we raise children, rates of abuse around the world are remarkably similar in some ways," Runyan said. "Close to 40 percent of the children being beaten by their parents in places as far away as Romania, Hong Kong and Korea. And the risk factors for abuse look remarkably similar in different countries."
Runyan relied not only on extensive online searches for papers about abuse, but also on reports sent to the WHO from organizations that hadn't published them in peer-reviewed medical journals but compiled, in some
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill