Screening is 'not effective' in the fight against domestic violence

May 12, 2014

One in three women around the world have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner. Although domestic violence is associated with a range of adverse health impacts, even after the abuse has ended, it is not easily identified by health care professionals, prompting some countries, notably the United States, to introduce screening programmes in healthcare settings. A new study, published online by the BMJ today, has found no evidence to support domestic violence screening.

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Melbourne, La Trobe and Columbia Universities and Queen Mary University in London reviewed all trials globally that assessed the effectiveness of intimate partner violence screening in primary care, antenatal care and emergency medicine departments.

They looked at 11 studies, involving 13,027 women in high-income countries. Although screening increased identification of cases by 133 per cent, the proportion of women identified was small – ranging from three per cent to 17 per cent. There was no evidence that screening increased referrals to support services, nor reduced violence or improved quality of life and other outcomes for domestic violence survivors.

Screening involved a range of methods to identify whether women patients had experience of , including face-to-face questions and computer surveys carried out during routine or emergency appointments.

Professor Gene Feder, from the University of Bristol's School of Social and Community Medicine, said: "Domestic violence is a crime and breach of human rights with major public health and clinical impact. Screening women in healthcare settings is national policy in some countries.

"By looking at research trials carried out around the world, we found no evidence that screening improves access to specialist domestic violence support or leads to a reduction of violence. This is an example of research that tells us what not to do. Yes, doctors and nurses need to ask women patients about abuse, but not all patients. We need to shift the research focus towards developing effective care for survivors of domestic violence after they have disclosed, however they are identified."

The findings support the NICE domestic violence guidelines and the World Health Organisation's (WHO) guidelines, which do not recommend domestic violence . They do recommend training of clinicians and development of care pathways to specialist domestic violence services, currently suffering funding cuts.

Explore further: Primary care needs to 'wake-up' to links between domestic abuse and safeguarding children

More information: 'Screening women for intimate partner violence in healthcare settings: abridged Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis' by Lorna J O'Doherty, Angela Taft, Kelsey Hegarty, Jean Ramsay, Leslie L Davidson and Gene Feder in the BMJ.

Related Stories

Primary care needs to 'wake-up' to links between domestic abuse and safeguarding children

March 6, 2014
Researchers looking at how healthcare professionals deal with domestic violence cases have identified that GPs, practice nurses and practice managers are uncertain about how to respond to the exposure of children to domestic ...

Domestic violence more common among orthopedic trauma patients than surgeons think

November 11, 2013
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 30 percent of women in North and South America experience intimate partner violence during their lifetimes. In North America, domestic violence also is the most common ...

Link found between intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy

January 7, 2014
Intimate partner violence in women (sometimes referred to as domestic violence) is linked to termination of pregnancy, according to a study by UK researchers published in this week's PLOS Medicine. The study, led by Susan ...

Unemployed women face a greater risk of domestic violence

February 27, 2014
Women with a higher risk of job loss are more likely to become victims of domestic abuse, according to research at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The role of GPs in helping women experiencing domestic violence

July 7, 2011
The research will be presented today at the 40th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society of Academic Primary Care, hosted this year by the University of Bristol's Academic Unit of Primary Health Care.

Domestic violence and perinatal mental health

May 28, 2013
Women who have mental health disorders around the time of birth are more likely to have previously experienced domestic violence, according to a study by UK researchers published in this week's PLOS Medicine.

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.