The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence

News article: Domestic Violence Affects Infant Mortality

Posted on: 06.24.11

This article was posted June 11, 2011 in the News section of the website PsychCentral.com and was written by Rick Nauert PhD, Senior News Editor.  You can find it online at http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/06/08/domestic-violence-affects-infant-mortality/26757.html

Despite spending more money on health care than any other country in the world, the United States lags behind many countries in infant mortality related to pre-term birth or low birth weight outcomes. Sadly, some of the poor outcomes have been linked to domestic violence. In a new study, researchers argue that providers need better training on recognizing domestic violence, as well as training on how to effectively counsel mothers and children and put them in contact with appropriate channels for care.

Tina Bloom, Ph.D., from the University of Missouri, recommends training for health care providers to recognize signs of domestic violence and connect abused women with resources in their communities. Policymakers are aware that domestic violence often goes unrecognized and is underreported. Accordingly, objectives in “Healthy People 2020” – a 10-year plan released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — include providing support for those who work to prevent domestic violence.

“Health care providers are not well trained to routinely screen or recognize the signs of domestic violence,” Bloom said.  Bloom added, “They don’t know how to ask about abuse, what to say or how to connect abused women with help. We need to engage with current students, our future health care providers, to bring this issue to the forefront.”

According to Bloom, addressing maternal-child health disparities goes beyond the issue of domestic violence. Abused women need access to resources for finding employment, affordable and safe housing, financial assistance, transportation and health care. These factors, defined in Healthy People 2020 as social determinants of health, heavily influence women’s responses to violence and health outcomes of women and children. “Healthy moms produce healthy babies and together they give rise to a healthy population,” Bloom said. As a maternal-child health researcher, I am particularly pleased that the Healthy People objectives have expanded to include injury and violence prevention for women and children and talk explicitly about these key social determinants of health.”

This research shows the importance of including health care providers in the response to domestic violence.  Health care providers, especially women’s health providers, are in a unique position to intervene with domestic violence victims.  Often, an abusive partner prevents the victim from utilizing community resources but will allow her to see her physician.  GCADV’s Project Connect is designed to train physicians, nurses, social workers and allied personnel in both health departments and hospitals on how they can appropriately screen for domestic violence and how they can refer a patient to a local domestic violence organization.  The project also works to connect health care providers with the domestic violence organization in their community to foster long-term relationships. 

At GCADV our hope is that by providing training to the health care community, we can positively impact the health and safety of women and children in Georgia.

If you are a medical care professional and would like to speak with a GCADV staff person about training the providers you work with, please contact Angie Boy at aboy@gcadv.org.

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