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Keywords:

  • child maltreatment;
  • data linkage;
  • emergency department

Aim:  The aim of this study is to determine the proportion of child maltreatment-related emergency department (ED) presentations in Western Australia (WA) and describe the type of injuries associated with them. It is also to investigate the proportion of maltreatment-related ED presentations resulting in hospitalisation, the proportion referred to the Department for Child Protection and their outcomes.

Methods:  This is a retrospective cohort study of all children aged 0–17 years residing in WA from 2001 to 2005 who had an ED presentation recorded in the ED Data Collection. This study used de-identified administrative data linked across the Departments of Health and Child Protection.

Results:  Only 0.03% of ED presentations were identified as maltreatment related and 0.2% for all intentional injury presentations. One in five children with maltreatment-related ED presentations was admitted to hospital and a similar proportion had a notification to Department for Child Protection and 87% of these subsequently substantiated.

Conclusions:  This study showed that there are limitations with ED data for child maltreatment surveillance in WA and raises concerns that there may be missed opportunities for identifying maltreatment and for referring families for further assessment and support. Recommendations are provided to improve maltreatment surveillance and ED data, particularly for the identification of external causes of injury.