LOS ANGELES – Women of childbearing age should undergo screening for domestic violence and other forms of abuse while visiting their doctor or clinic, according to a recommendation published online Monday by an influential panel of medical experts that advises the federal government.
That recommendation, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, marks a significant change from 2004, when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found insufficient evidence to support screenings for Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV.
Now, citing new evidence, the task force said that screening women for IPV with a list of standard questions showed a “moderate net benefit,” while the risks associated with disclosing abuse were small.
If abuse is confirmed, physicians should provide patients with, or refer them to, intervention services, the panel said. Such services include counseling, home visits, information cards, community service referrals and mentor programs.
The guidelines apply only to women age 14 to 46 who do not show obvious signs of physical or sexual abuse that would otherwise prompt questions from health care providers. Although the report acknowledged that women of childbearing age are not the only people who suffer abuse at the hands of former or current intimate partners, evidence is still insufficient to recommend broader screenings, the authors said.
Intimate partner violence includes physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, stalking and intimidation that increases the risk of unplanned pregnancy.
Monday’s recommendation by the task force could possibly steer organizations toward adopting a more standardized protocol, according to some health care providers.