ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) today announced the creation of a unique collaboration involving the world’s foremost leaders in health. A new 25-member Global Health Coalition involving leaders that span all areas of the health industry will work together to address the public health crisis affecting today’s youth that has resulted from the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
“For the first time in history, the health care industry is coming together to attack the scourge of child sexual abuse and exploitation as a public health issue,” said Dr. Franz Humer, Chairman of Roche who also serves as Chairman of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children. “This coalition will change the way the world responds to child sexual abuse and exploitation. This is just the beginning. We will work to add more companies and health care leaders. Our commitment is to approach this crisis in the same way we have approached other health crises – through a coordinated global response.”
Researchers estimate that at least one in five girls and one in ten boys will be sexually victimized before they reach age 18, yet only one in three cases are reported. At least 1.8 million children are forced into commercial sex. Studies by the Mayo Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others have consistently found that a history of sexual abuse leads to a broad range of health disorders later in adulthood, representing both a lifelong burden for the victims of abuse and a large public health challenge.
Ernie Allen, President and CEO of ICMEC, said, “There are many important international treaties and conventions and there is more attention to this issue today than ever before. Yet, the problem is getting worse. In the past, the world’s primary response to the problem of sexual abuse and exploitation of children has been through law and efforts by law enforcement – which are important. However, there has been no coordinated global effort to address the public health crisis that has emerged. An industry-wide collaboration is needed to effectively change how the world is addressing this problem.”
Efforts of the coalition will include working to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation through improving medical education; increasing early identification of victims; undertaking epidemiological research; identifying gaps in treatment for victims; and improving mental health services. The new Global Health Coalition includes pharmaceutical companies from six nations, plus leading health care institutions including the renowned Mayo Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, leading child abuse experts and others.
Dr. Daniel Broughton of the Mayo Clinic stated, “2010 Mayo Clinic study found that a history of sexual abuse is associated with suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, and eating and sleep disorders. Sexual victimization changes a child’s brain and has serious implications for a child’s health for the rest of his or her life. It creates a risk of mental and physical health problems, including a risk of death from diabetes, cancer and heart disease.”
The founding members of the coalition include Roche (Switzerland); Almirall (Spain); GlaxoSmithKline (UK); Merck (US); Menarini (Italy); UCB (Belgium); Forest Laboratories (US); the Mayo Clinic (US); the CDC (US); Bambino Gesu (the Vatican); the American Academy of Pediatrics (US); InterPharma (Switzerland)and many others.
ICMEC has had a remarkable success through convening and managing other voluntary industry coalitions. ICMEC also manages the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography, which includes 34 financial and Internet companies which have worked to eradicate commercial child pornography. ICMEC also manages the Technology Coalition, nine major Internet companies, which are developing and implementing new technologies to disrupt the ability of offenders to use the Internet to exploit or traffic children. For example, ICMEC is providing new, free technology for industry and law enforcement worldwide including Microsoft’s PhotoDNA and CETS (Child Exploitation Trafficking System).