The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment.
Child abuse and neglect affected more than 680,000 children in the U.S. in 2011, and an estimated 1,570 died as a result of maltreatment. Survivors of abuse face potentially significant health, emotional, and behavioral consequences of abuse.
Physicians and other health care providers who care for children and families are uniquely poised to identify children at risk for abuse and neglect during well checks and other visits.
Researchers reviewed studies published since 2004 when the Task Force last published recommendations on child abuse and neglect to determine the effectiveness of primary care relevant interventions on child abuse and neglect outcomes. The researchers found that most child maltreatment prevention programs studied and recommended by others focus on home visitation, which is generally considered to be a community-based service provided to at-risk families.
The evidence for interventions in primary care is limited and inconsistent, and therefore insufficient to make a recommendation. Although there are concerns regarding the possible harms of interventions for child maltreatment, such as dissolution of families, legal concerns, and an increased risk of further harm to the child, the researchers found limited evidence of these harms.