Study: Abuse Landed 4,500 US Children in Hospital, Killed 300

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Child abuse landed 4,569 American children in the hospital in 2006, 300 of whom died from their injuries, according to a new study.

The rate of hospitalization was highest among children under a year old, with roughly 58 per 100,000 babies needing care for serious injuries related to abuse.

"There are far too many children, especially very young children, who suffer serious injuries from child abuse and are hospitalized for the care of these injuries," said study author Dr. John Leventhal, a professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Leventhal and colleagues compared the characteristics of children hospitalized because of abuse, including age and insurance status, to those of children hospitalized for reasons other than abuse, such as accidental injuries or illnesses.  Among the findings, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, abused children of all ages were more likely to be covered by Medicaid.

"In our study Medicaid was a proxy measure for poverty, and poverty increases the stress in people's lives," said Leventhal. "But it's important to note that any parent could lose it."

The rate of death due to abuse was six times higher than the rate of death among children hospitalized for non-abusive injuries or illnesses, and the average length of stay in the hospital was almost double at just over a week.

The study highlights the heavy burden of abuse among the country's most vulnerable citizens.

"The worst is when these kids die," said Leventhal. "Clearly those families are destroyed. Some people go to jail, and that's a heartache too. Sometimes, children are placed with a relative or in foster care. Of course, there's heartache there, too."

Child abuse carries a heavy cost, too.  The average hospital stay cost $16,058, compared with $9,550 for non-abuse-related injuries and $7,964 for other illnesses, bringing the national cost of abuse-related hospitalizations to $73.8 million -- a fraction of the estimated $124 billion spent on justice, education, health care and social support for children who survive abuse and neglect, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We're not messing around with small things here. This is on par with the cost of type 2 diabetes in this country," said Leventhal. "Never mind the heartache for the kids and families."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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