Calls for a public health approach to child maltreatment – a strategy that aims primarily to reduce risk factors for maltreatment - have been based on four main arguments. (O’Donnell et al. 2008; Reading et al. 2009; Barlow and Calam, 2011) The right of children to be protected from harm in the first place. The frequency of child maltreatment, which, if all occurrences were notified, would overwhelm child protection systems. The inaccuracy of identification systems, which miss the large majority of maltreated children. And fourth, the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of intervening to prevent child maltreatment comparing with intervention once child maltreatment has occurred. We review the evidence to support these arguments and trace the development of UK policy and health services towards a public health approach.
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