Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

What is the role of health systems in responding to domestic violence? An evidence review

Jo Spangaro
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

School of Social Sciences, UNSW Australia, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Email: j.spangaro@unsw.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16155
Submitted: 11 July 2016  Accepted: 4 November 2016   Published online: 20 January 2017

Abstract

Objective The aim of the present study was to review and analyse academic literature and program evaluations to identify promising evidence for health system responses to domestic violence in Australia and internationally.

Methods English-language literature published between January 2005 and March 2016 was retrieved from search results using the terms ‘domestic violence’ or ‘intimate partner violence’ in different combinations with other relevant terms, resulting in 1671 documents, of which 59 were systematic reviews. Electronic databases (Medline (Ovid), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Psycinfo, Social work Abstracts, Informit, Violence and Abuse Abstracts, Family Studies Abstracts, Cochrane Library of Systematic Reviews and EMBASE) were searched and narrative analysis undertaken.

Results This review details the evidence base for the following interventions by health services responding to domestic violence: first-line responses, routine screening, risk assessment and safety planning, counselling with women, mother–child interventions, responses to perpetrators, child protection notifications, training and system-level responses.

Conclusions There is growing evidence for the effectiveness of health service interventions to reduce the extent of harm caused by domestic violence.

What is known about the topic? Domestic violence is a significant problem globally with enormous human, social and economic costs. Although women who have experienced abuse make extensive use of healthcare services, health services have lagged behind the policing, criminal justice and other human service domains in responding to domestic violence.

What does this paper add? The present comprehensive review identifies best-practice health system responses to domestic violence.

What are the implications for practitioners? Health systems can play a key role in identifying and responding to domestic violence for women who often do not access other services. There is growing evidence for the effectiveness of health service interventions to reduce the extent of harm caused by domestic violence, in particular for specialist counselling, structured risk assessment and safety planning, training for first-line responses and interventions for mothers and children affected by domestic violence.


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