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Universal screening programs can uncover abuse, study finds
Date:3/7/2011

TORONTO, ON., March 7, 2011Screening every woman who comes to a health care centre does increase the number who acknowledge they have been abused by their partners, a new study confirms.

The study, led by Patricia O'Campo, director of the Centre for Inner City Research at St. Michael's Hospital, represents a major reversal of thinking about the value of universal screening programs for domestic abuse or intimate partner violence.

Until now, the research and health care policy communities felt there was insufficient evidence to support such programs. O'Campo reviewed all the major studies conducted on the topic between 1990 and 2010 and came to a different conclusion. Her results appear in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

She found the most effective universal screening programs are those that have:

  • the support of their institution and senior administrators
  • standardized questions for asking about abuse and clear guidelines, such as talking to patients privately
  • thorough initial and ongoing training for staff
  • and immediate access to or referral to support services.

"What is not effective is asking staff to do the screening without providing staff with any support during what is a stressful experience for women who are experiencing violence," she said. "When the right supports are in place for staff, then the screening process can be very effective and more patients can be helped. What these supports do is help the staff feel more confident and capable of performing the screening effectively."

O'Campo said past studies have measured the effectiveness of universal screening programs in terms of whether they result in less abuse, She said that's not the best measure of success because there are so many, sometimes tentative, steps involved in the process, many of which are outside the health care system.

She said the programs that showed the most improvement in scre
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Contact: Leslie Shepherd
shepherdl@smh.ca
416-864-6094
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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