An Urgent Global Problem: CDC Estimates 1 Billion Children Experience Violence Every Year

It's a tragic yet preventable public health problem across the world: violence against children. According to a recent CDC study published in Pediatrics, more than half the world's children - that's a billion kids between the ages of 2 and 17 years - experienced some type of violence in the past year. As a mother, it's difficult to see these numbers. As an emergency room (ER) doctor and public health professional, it's my responsibility to do something about it. Children who experience violence can suffer many short- and long-term health consequences, including a greater risk of chronic diseases, injury, HIV infection, mental health problems, suicide, teen pregnancy, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Some of the patients I treat in the ER are children who are victims of violence. The short-term impact of violence is certainly hard to digest; yet the long-term impact should not be forgotten or minimized. Violence affects children's brain development, their immune systems, and even their DNA. Think about it like this: just one hit, one kick, or one beating can cause adverse effects in a child that may never go away. Quite literally, these events can stay with them for the rest of their lives.

CDC is doing something about this public health problem. Based on the best available evidence, we can take clear, effective steps to protect children from all forms of violence by using the components of CDC's THRIVES strategies and similar guidance from the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization. CDC's THRIVES strategies focus on:

  • Training in Parenting--strengthening the bond between parents and children creates positive parent-child relationships, helping to reduce harsh and violent parenting practices.
  • Household Economic Strengthening--leads to less violence in the household by creating fewer chances for children to witness violence and suffer the consequences.
  • Reduced Violence through Legal Protections--providing evidence for effective laws that ban violence against and exploitation of children and work to form equal rights for males and females.
  • Improved Services for Victims and Perpetrators--provide counseling services for victims of violence, along with health services, shelters and case management.
  • Values and Norms that Protect Children--work to change beliefs about harmful parenting practices that affect children.
  • Education and Life Skills Building--allow children to stay in school, learn, and build life skills.
  • Surveillance and Evaluation--use data to inform prevention programs and monitor their impact
Moreover, there is a new global commitment to prevent violence against children. For the first time, the United Nations has issued a bold new vision in the
to "end all forms of violence against children." To support this goal, the new
has recently been launched to accelerate investments across sectors and stakeholders. These investments will help scale up and sustain the kinds of effective solutions outlined in THRIVES. I'm confident that we can replace all violence against children with the safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments that all children need and deserve. We can end violence against children if we act wisely, act now, and act together.