Wednesday April 18, 2012

Two national studies related to children have been released this week, one that speaks well of Massachusetts and one that suggests the state needs to do better. In the latter case, involving child abuse reporting, Massachusetts must help this problem be addressed by improving its effort to make the public aware of its extent.

A report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control revealed that Massa chusetts had the lowest rate of accidental deaths among children in the United States, 4 deaths per 100,000 residents up to the age of 19 in statistics from 2009. The national rate was 11 deaths per 100,000, with Mississippi at the bottom of the list with 25 deaths per 100,000. If the rest of the nation had achieved Massachusetts' low rate, according to Ilena Arias, the principal deputy director of the CDC, the lives of 5,000 children would have been saved that year.

In a press briefing, Ms. Arias praised the state for its long-term investment in programs and policies that encourage safety, such as safe-driving laws. Massachusetts also has the lowest rate of accidental pediatric deaths since 2000, according to The Boston Globe, in part because of regulations urged by the medical community and passed by the Legislature. There is something to be said for the nanny-state.

A study released Tuesday gave the state a C grade on compliance with federal Child Abuse and Prevention and Treatment Act requirements on the reporting of data regarding deaths and near-deaths of abused or neglected children. The study was conducted by the Children's Advocacy Institute and First Start, a national organization that advocates for children. Massachusetts does have good laws in place to deal with child abuse and effective organizations to enforce those laws, but the two groups that performed the study maintain that public awareness is critical to providing the resources necessary to address this horrific problem and believe the state can strive to do better in this area.

It is difficult for people to grasp that adults will harm children, but roughly 1,700 deaths or near deaths due to abuse or neglect are reported annually in the United States. Getting the numbers out so people will understand this sad reality is a big part of the effort to lower this number.