Home | DVCC Updates | Medical Advocacy News | CDC Doctor: Domestic Violence is a Serious Public Health Issue

CDC Doctor: Domestic Violence is a Serious Public Health Issue

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

The stark reality is that domestic violence is a serious public health issue, not a private family matter. Just ask Dr. Nidal M. Karim, a behavioral scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Preve  ntion, who spoke to medical professionals and domestic violence advocates at a breakfast forum at Stamford Hospital on October 10th. Or visit the CDC website which states that "Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans."

According to Dr. Karim, each year in the United States there are 12 million victims of domestic violence, rape and stalking, and CDC studies show that 81% of women and 35% of men who experience partner abuse also report at least one health-related problem.

"Partner violence is linked to numerous health issues and adverse health behavior," she said. "The economic cost each year is $8.3 billion, which does not include costs incurred by the legal or criminal justice systems."

Extensive research over the last several years shows that abuse victims are at significant risk for hypertension, high cholesterol, heart attacks, strokes, chronic pain, chronic irritable bowel syndrome and pregnancy-related problems. Head injuries and strangulation put victims at increased risk for strokes, memory loss, seizures, blackouts, dizziness and difficulties with concentrating. Many victims of domestic violence are sexually abused, resulting in STD's, HIV, cervical cancer and internal injuries. Mental health repercussions of IPV include higher incidences of depression, post traumatic stress syndrome and suicide. And victims are also more likely to engage in substance abuse and other risky behaviors.

Dr. Karim emphasized that the keys to addressing domestic violence are partnerships and collaboration between many different groups, including agencies providing domestic violence services, the criminal justice system, health systems, the media and community organizations.

"Domestic violence cannot be addressed by a single program or in isolation," Karim said. "Partnership is the cornerstone of success. We all have a responsibility to take action."

The other speakers at the forum were Rachelle Kucera Mehra, Executive Director of DVCC, and Mary Henwood-Klotz, Director of Integrative Medicine at Stamford Hospital. Both spoke about the success of the partnership between Stamford Hospital and DVCC's Medical Advocacy Project (MAP) to train all hospital personal on how to identify and respond to victims of domestic violence. Over the past two years, MAP advocates have trained over 2,000 people in the medical profession, including 1,200 doctors, nurses and other hospital staff at Stamford Hospital.

 "The Stamford Hospital initiative exemplifies the best of institutionalized alliances," Kucera Mehra said.

Henwood-Klotz encouraged everyone at the forum to seek out doctors, nurses, social workers and other healthcare providers in their communities and to talk with them about providing screening for victims of domestic violence.

MAP offers specially tailored training programs to all healthcare providers in the communities served by DVCC.