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Child Welfare. 2013;92(2):99-117.

Applying a public health approach: the role of state health departments in preventing maltreatment and fatalities of children.

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  • 1Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30341, USA.


Child maltreatment prevention is traditionally conceptualized as a social services and criminal justice issue. Although these responses are critical and important, alone they are insufficient to prevent the problem. A public health approach is essential to realizing the prevention of child abuse and neglect. This paper discusses the public health model and social-ecology framework as ways to understand and address child maltreatment prevention and discusses the critical role health departments can have in preventing abuse and neglect. Information from an environmental scan of state public health departments is provided to increase understanding of the context in which state public health departments operate. Finally, an example from North Carolina provides a practical look at one state's effort to create a cross-sector system of prevention that promotes safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments for children and families.

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