Nearly 900,000 US children were neglected or abused in 2002 and 1,400 died as a result, the US Health and Human Services department reported on Thursday.
Although there has been an improvement in the situation over the previous decade, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a statement, "The abuse of children remains a national tragedy that demands our commitment and action."
Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona announced he would create a working group to focus attention on the problem and find ways to tackle it.
Statistics gathered by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System showed child protective service agencies received 2.6 million reports of possible maltreatment in 2002. Of these, 896,000 were substantiated and most involved neglect.
HHS said the rate of child neglect and abuse in 2002 was about 20 percent lower than the rate in 1993, when maltreatment peaked at an estimated 15.3 out of every 1,000 children. The rate is now 12.3 out of every 1,000 children.
Carmona said it was appropriate for public health officials to become involved in child abuse and neglect.
"While child maltreatment has traditionally been thought of as a criminal justice issue, it is also very much a public health issue," Carmona said in a statement.
"The wrenching mental and physical health effects of child maltreatment continue for that child long after he or she is placed in a safe environment. And the frequency with which child maltreatment occurs in our society compels us to be aggressive in developing ways to stop it."
The full report, Child Maltreatment 2002, is posted on the Internet at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/cm02/index.htm
(China Daily April 2, 2004)