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Wednesday August 4 12:12 AM ET

Study Says Child Abuse Deaths Understated

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Deaths due to child abuse are probably being underreported by more than 60 percent in the United States, according to a study published Tuesday.

Researchers at the Department of Health and Human Services said they made the calculation after a look at death records in North Carolina over a 10-year period ending in 1995. Of 259 cases listed as homicides, 220 were due to child abuse, they said.

The report, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, estimated that out of all 259 cases studied in North Carolina, the state's vital records system had failed to list abuse or battering as the cause of death in 58.7 percent.

``Vital records systems need to be improved in order to more accurately determine the true incidence of fatal child abuse and establish more effective prevention strategies,'' the study said. The authors said the North Carolina findings probably apply to record keeping in the rest of the United States.

The report estimated that nationally such deaths have probably been underestimated by 61.6 percent.

Records show that from 1985 through 1996, 2,973 U.S. children younger than 11 died as a result of abuse. The researchers estimated underreporting means the true figure could have been as much as 9,467.

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