15,000 doctors against child abuse

First healthcare network worldwide with 13 hospitals

(ANSA) - Florence, May 12 - The first healthcare network worldwide against child abuse has been created in Italy with the participation of 13 pediatric hospitals across the country and 15,000 pediatricians and general practitioners trained to recognize signs of physical, sexual and psychological violence against minors.
    The project, which has already kicked off, was launched by multinational pharmaceutical company Menarini, in cooperation with children's helpline Telefono Azzurro, the Italian Pediatric Society, the Italian Federation of pediatricians and the Italian Association of Pediatric Hospitals.
    Today, an estimated 70-80,000 minors suffer some form of violence or abuse but only a minority of these cases are reported.
    The first phase of the project, called 'train the trainers', includes training a group of 1,000 pediatricians through 23 intensive courses to enable them to recognize warning signs of abuse.
    This first group will then support and train other colleagues in order to create a network of 15,000 doctors across the country.
    Moreover, Italy's top 13 pediatric hospitals will be involved to host training courses as well as to treat abuse victims.
    Menarini has invested one million euros in the project.
    "We are challenging the plague of abuse", said Lucia and Alberto Giovanni Aleotti, respectively president and vice-president of Menarini.
    "This is the starting point of an international project promoted by the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) that will bring Italy at the center of a significant interest in the fight against child abuse".
    According to a recent survey carried out by Telefono Azzurro, in cooperation with Doxa Kids, many child abuse cases go unreported and 70% of abuses occur within the family.
    New technologies and the economic crisis are significant risk factors, the survey said.
    Warning signs listed in a handbook drafted by Telefono Azzurro include unusually lonely and solitary behavior and when minors are hyperactive or try to harm themselves.
    Other behaviors to be monitored include insomnia and a sudden decline in academic achievement.
    Most of the abuses reported to Telefono Azzurro's 114 helpline are physical or psychological while one in 10 is sexual.
    Only one in five of sexual abuse victims and one in three of violence victims are able to report the abuse they have suffered, the helpline said.