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Screening May Not Lessen Domestic Violence

Without effective prevention methods, process doesn't work, study says

TUESDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Screening for domestic violence in doctors' offices, clinics and hospitals does little to reduce subsequent incidents of violence, Canadian researchers have found.

Their study of 6,743 women, ages 18 to 64, was conducted in 11 emergency departments, 12 family practices and three obstetrics/gynecology clinics. Of the 3,271 women who completed a domestic violence screening questionnaire before seeing their doctor, 347 were found to have been abused. Of the 3,472 other women, 360 were found to have been abused.

If a woman screened positive for abuse, the information was given to her doctor before her health-care visit. Those in the other group completed the questionnaire after their health-care visit.

During the next 18 months, 46 percent of the women who had been screened before their health-care visit and 53 percent of the others reported a recurrence of domestic violence, which the researchers called intimate partner violence, or IPV. The difference was not statistically significant, the researchers said.

Women in the screened group showed more improvement in their quality of life and less depression than those in the non-screened group, although these differences also were not statistically significant, the researchers said. They found no differences in other health outcomes.

Both groups used domestic violence services at about the same rate, the study found.

The findings appear in the Aug. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We conclude ... that these results do not provide sufficient evidence to support universal IPV screening in health-care settings in the absence of an effective intervention to prevent or reduce IPV, especially in the context of the resources required to conduct screening and to deal with the number of women identified by the screening tool," Dr. Harriet L. MacMillan, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and her research colleagues, said in a news release.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about domestic violence.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Aug. 4, 2009

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