LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — April is child abuse awareness month, and University Medical Center says it’s seeing a ‘shocking’ rise in the number of child abuse deaths.
UMC’s Children’s Hospital recorded a 29 percent increase in fatalities attributed to child abuse from 2017 to 2018, and when compared to 2016 numbers, the increase is 200 percent, according to the hospital.
It’s the second time UMC has addressed child abuse-related deaths in less than two years.
“It’s so challenging for all of us. It’s multi-factorial,” said Dr. Jay Fisher, director of pediatric emergency services. “I feel like our community is at greater risk than other communities. This is a healthcare problem, not just a social problem or an individual problem. It’s a family problem; it’s a community problem that we all have to focus on.”
UMC reported two child abuse-related deaths in 2016, seven in 2017, and nine last year. That’s a roughly 200 percent increase over three years.
Dr. Fisher says of those nine, some are related to shaken baby syndrome.
“A child under age 5 in this state and around the country for that matter is more likely to die from inflicted abuse, inflicted trauma than they are to die in motor vehicle crashes or to die of cancer,” Dr. Fisher said.
He adds his counterparts at other area hospitals seem to agree on the issue.
“Our general sense is this is an increasing problem, again whether it’s a ratio of the growth of our community, or is it something disproportionate here,” said Dr. Fisher.
“When you have people moving in, and you have more disparities in income and social class that make it hard for both groups — as you know people who are suffering and don’t have as many resources — that causes problems,” said Dr. Amanda Haboush-Deloye, director with the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy.
UMC launched a campaign last year to promote prevention, and that includes cautioning parents about whom they choose to care for their child.
“We know now that many children who are abused are abused by those people who are not the biological parents of these children,” Dr. Fisher said.
8 News NOW called Metro Police and Clark County Child Protective Services for their reaction to UMC’s numbers, but the agencies did not respond to the request by the deadline.