Survey Finds Significant Links Between Chronic Health Conditions and Domestic Violence

Washington, D.C. (November 14, 2013) – A significant link exists between many chronic health conditions and domestic violence, and the health care industry, support agencies and others must do more to make and act on that connection.

The survey, “Verizon Foundation and MORE Magazine Survey: Exploring the Relationship between Domestic Violence and Chronic Health Conditions,” found that 70 percent of adult American women over the age of 21 have a chronic health condition. That number rises to 81 percent among women who have experienced any form of domestic violence. This is especially serious given that 44 percent of women in the survey said they experienced a form of domestic violence.

Despite the high correlation between chronic health conditions and experiencing domestic violence, only 6 percent of women surveyed believe their doctor or nurse has ever made a connection between the two. Three-fourths of women say they have never been asked about domestic violence during a medical exam. Among women aged 65 and older, 85 percent have never been screened, though they are no less likely than their younger counterparts (aged 21 – 34) to experience domestic violence.

A number of barriers prevent the majority of health care professionals from doing these screenings, according to a new white paper, “Domestic Violence and the Role of the Healthcare Provider: The Value of Educating on Assessment and Intervention Strategies,” that was presented at the Capitol Hill briefing. These obstacles include the widespread perception that domestic violence is a private issue; fear of offending a patient; fear of the patient’s abuser; a lack of understanding of abuse; time constraints; and lack of referral sources and procedures for screening.

The white paper was developed by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., with support from the Rutgers University School of Social Work and the Verizon Foundation.

Elaine Hewins, domestic violence education and awareness program coordinator at the hospital and an author of the white paper, said, “Because health care providers are often the first responders to domestic violence, it is essential that they redefine the goals of routine screening and learn the skill sets to continually and consistently ask questions, making patients feel comfortable and safe enough to utilize healthcare professionals as resources and allies.”

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