Universal screening in health-care settings for intimate partner violence shows no significant benefit for women

    HAMILTON, Aug. 6 /CNW/ - Universal screening in health-care settings for
intimate partner violence does not result in significant reductions in
subsequent violence, nor does it lead to significant improvements in quality
of life, a new McMaster University study has found.
    The study, published in the August 5, 2009 edition of the Journal of the
American Medical Association (JAMA), was led by Harriet MacMillan, a professor
of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences and pediatrics in the Michael G.
DeGroote School of Medicine, in collaboration with researchers from the
McMaster Violence Against Women Research Group. The research was supported by
Echo: Improving Women's Health in Ontario, an agency of the Ontario Ministry
of Health and Long-Term Care. The researchers examined the effectiveness of
screening along with communication of a positive screening result to
clinicians in health-care settings, compared with no screening, in reducing
subsequent violence and improving quality of life.
    "We conclude, although sample attrition urges cautious interpretation,
that these results do not provide sufficient evidence to support universal
intimate partner violence screening in health-care settings at this time,"
said MacMillan, a pediatrician and psychiatrist. "Further research is
    Women who disclosed violence in the past year were interviewed at the
start of the study and every six months for 18 months about subsequent
incidents of intimate partner violence and quality of life, as well as their

    The study also found that:
    -   All women in the trial showed reductions in exposure to violence
        across time - these reductions were not, however, associated with
    -   At 18 months, observed recurrence of intimate partner violence among
        screened vs. non-screened women was 46 per cent vs. 53 per cent,
        which is not statistically significant.
    -   Women in the screened vs. non-screened groups showed higher
        improvement in quality of life and depression, but these differences
        were small and not statistically significant when the analysis
        accounted for women lost to follow-up. There were no differences in
        other health outcomes.
    -   Screened and control group women had no differences in the frequency
        of using violence-related health and social services.
    -   Many women must be screened to identify one woman who discloses
    -   There were no harms of screening as implemented in this trial.

    Pat Campbell, CEO of Echo, said that the results of the study help to
shed light on the issue of screening women for intimate partner violence in
health-care settings.
    "While this study indicates there is insufficient evidence to support
universal intimate partner violence screening in health-care settings, it
underscores the need for effective treatments and services to improve the
health status of women who are exposed to violence," she said.
    The randomized controlled trial was conducted in 11 emergency
departments, 12 family practices, and three obstetrics/gynecology clinics in
Ontario among 6,743 female patients aged 18 to 64 years. The women were
screened, using a written, self-completed questionnaire, for emotional,
physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner.
    The authors also concluded that evidence of effective interventions for
women experiencing intimate partner violence is urgently required. They
recommended that further research be undertaken to evaluate such treatments
and services, which may include counselling, shelters and other clinical and
social services.

For further information:

For further information: Veronica McGuire, Media Relations Coordinator,
Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, (905) 525-9140, ext. 22169,
vmcguir@mcmaster.ca; Julie McFayden, Public Affairs and Community Engagement
Specialist, Echo: Improving Women's Health in Ontario, (416) 597-9687 ext 232,

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