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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States, and last April there were several events that commemorated this annual reminder of the ongoing toll to children everywhere as a result of child abuse and neglect. We had the opportunity to participate in a unique celebration that took place in Chicago, which we thought should be brought to the attention of all child health professionals, especially those who find themselves chairs of academic departments of pediatrics.
Large urban areas have many children who are victims of both unintentional as well as intentional injury, and many urban areas, such as London, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore/Washington, Houston, and Los Angeles have several to many schools of medicine. Many of the departments of pediatrics in these schools have relatively few (if any) faculty who have child abuse and neglect or injury prevention as their clinical specialty or area of research interest. These faculty often struggle to have access to adequate populations or patients, as well as resources to fund their academic programs. Thus, the launching of a collaborative, city-wide violence prevention effort in Chicago last April is a sentinel event worth noting and, in our view, emulating as widely as possible.
Before this even, no one had ever seen the six chairs of the academic departments of pediatrics on the same stage before. But, as one said, “Why would you want to compete for market share in this area?” Why indeed! Nevertheless, the six chairs pledged to develop a city-wide program that would serve all the children in Chicago, would improve and standardize education in violence prevention at all the schools, and would, perhaps most importantly, permit the collaboration of all the faculty in all the departments in their clinical and research programs. Accordingly, the opportunities to obtain peer-reviewed grants, as well as public and private funding, for this point effort are substantially greater than was possible for the six schools trying to do this separately.
Research and clinical advances in the areas of violence, child abuse, and injury prevention have been slow to develop. Part of the reason is the lack of funding and the need to have access to large populations of children to do adequate research. The Chicago approach seems to us to be so sensible and so refreshing that we thought we needed to share this experience with others in child health.