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Advancing the Health Care Response to Intimate Partner Violence

Graphic of people's profiles in silhouette with the words: Intimate Partner Violence Screening and Counseling Research SymposiumBy Dr. Marylouise Kelley, Director, Family Violence Prevention and Services Program

I am excited to share that today the National Institutes of Health will host a historic discussion of the research needed to better recognize and serve women who have experienced violence by an intimate partner (IPV).  A Department-wide effort, the Intimate Partner Violence Screening & Counseling Research Symposium, is co-hosted by the Family Violence Division of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at ACF, the Office on Women’s Health, and NIH. The Symposium brings together the country’s top clinical researchers, medical practitioners, domestic violence experts and policy makers to examine the current state of the science, highlight best practices, and identify research gaps that need to be addressed in order to advance the health sector’s response to IPV.

Photo of Dr. Marylouise KelleyIPV is a serious, yet preventable public health problem that affects more than 1 in 3 women in the United States each year, regardless of age, economic status, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.1  An extensive body of research reveals that victims of IPV often suffer lifelong health consequences, such as emotional trauma, lasting physical impairment, chronic health problems, and even death.2   Last January, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recognized this impact by recommending that clinicians screen women of childbearing age for IPV and refer those who screen positive to intervention services . This recommendation strongly echoed the Department’s guidelines for women’s preventive services in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which states that screening and counseling for IPV by a health provider must be covered by insurance without cost-sharing.  Given the trust that develops between a patient and her physician, medical providers are in a unique position to assess and offer support for women who experience IPV.

Today’s Symposium builds on the vision behind the ACA guidelines to promote the health and wellbeing of all women. Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell will open the day with a discussion of what brief counseling providers should offer as part of the screening and assessment process. As a leading researcher and practitioner working on the frontlines with survivors, Dr. Campbell will share her thoughts on what constitutes an adequate and empowering response to a patient who screens positive for IPV.  This and other topics will be examined throughout the day, inspiring critical conversations around themes such as trauma-informed screening methods; culturally-competent screening and counseling; the ethics of screening; barriers to research, and more.  A lunchtime discussion led by the Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence, an ACF grantee, will feature the unique perspectives of survivors on how to best equip providers to ask the right questions and follow-up with an appropriate, sensitive response.

I am grateful that joining us at the Symposium are key Department and Administration leadership, a testament to their long-standing support for today’s work.  ACF Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg, and Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, will provide afternoon remarks on the importance of the ACA in promoting women’s health, and the pivotal role that health providers can play in improving the wellbeing of patients.  Their commitment to ensuring that survivors receive comprehensive care will be invaluable in maintaining momentum behind today’s discussion.

I look forward to sharing more about the outcomes from the Symposium.  In the meantime, I encourage everyone to visit the National Library of Medicine website, which features a newly created collection of women’s health resources across federal agencies, including programs of the Family and Youth Services Bureau, and additional background on the NIH Symposium.


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