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CDC official praises child abuse prevention campaign

By Dave Ranney | April 25, 2014

A national expert on child abuse prevention today praised a Kansas Children’s Service League-led campaign aimed at helping communities find ways to promote healthy family relationships.

“Every time we talk about child abuse prevention at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), we talk about Kansas,” said Sandra Alexander, a consultant with the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention. “Not only because of the work you’re already doing, but for your commitment to the future as well.”

Kansas Children's Service League is a nonprofit headquartered in Topeka that provides adoption, foster care and child abuse prevention services.

Alexander’s comments were part of a presentation on how initiatives similar to the one proposed for Kansas have been or are close to being launched in 25 other states.

About 30 people - a mix of state officials, health care professionals, program directors and frontline workers - attended the roll-out session for the “Kansas Power of the Positive” initiative.

The five-year campaign is modeled after a CDC program called “Essentials for Childhood: Safe, Stable and Nurturing Relationships and Experiences,” and will include building public awareness, collecting and interpreting data, and hosting local discussions on how to create a "culture change" to reduce children’s exposure to trauma.

Since the mid-1990s, CDC-sponsored studies have shown that children who are exposed to traumatic events are more likely to develop mental and physical health ailments, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression and substance abuse.

“This is the biggest public health discovery in our lifetimes,” said Vicky Roper, director of Prevent Child Abuse Kansas at the Kansas Children’s Service League.

Roper said she expects to have a strategic plan put together in time for the Governor’s Conference for the prevention of Child Abuse, which is Oct. 15-17 in Wichita.

CDC is providing grant support for prevention campaigns in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Washington.

Of the 32 states not awarded CDC grant monies, Kansas was the first to raise its funds from the private sector, Alexander said.

The Kansas effort is being underwritten by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Morris Family Foundation, Christie Development Associates and the Junior League of Wichita.

“This is a huge job to take on,” said Bette Morris of the Topeka-based Morris Family Foundation. “But it’s crucial. The basic health and well-being of our whole society is determined by what happens in our early years.”

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