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Auckland study welcomed - Health Ministry

25 November 2004

Auckland study welcomed - Health Ministry

The Ministry of Health welcomes the publication of a University of Auckland study which reveals a third of all New Zealand women suffer from partner violence at some point in their lifetime.

Chief advisor, child & youth health Pat Tuohy says the research, undertaken by senior research fellow Dr Janet Fanslow and released today, serves as a reminder that family violence continues as a major public health issue within New Zealand.

"These findings indicate there is no room for complacency," he says.

"This study will help to raise public awareness on the issue while also promoting the continuing education programmes already in place. The ultimate goal must be to achieve zero tolerance for family violence across all sectors of society."

Dr Tuohy says findings reinforce the need for the initiatives and programmes already established by the Ministry of Health. A reduction of interpersonal violence was one of 13 priority areas in the New Zealand Health Strategy.

These initiatives include a Family Violence Prevention Project, which will see $600,000 spent over 2004/5 on the national and local coordination of family violence intervention training programmes. These are being implemented through DHBs, through general practice and through sexual health, maternity and well-child programmes.

A further $700,000 will be spent on a violence free hapu and marae programme, a violence-free workplace programme and the promotion of youth non-violence.

Dr Tuohy says health professionals are ideally placed to offer early intervention for large numbers of potential victims. The Ministry has developed guidelines on family violence intervention because early intervention is considered critical.

Health effects associated with partner violence span both the physical and mental health spectrums, being observed as low birth weight babies, gynaecological problems, digestive problems, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, sleeping and eating disorders, and substance abuse. Another Auckland study has revealed one quarter of psychiatric outpatients with major psychiatric disorders have experienced physical or sexual abuse.

The Ministry's guidelines have been endorsed by all the major health professional colleges. One set covers child abuse, another partner abuse and a third set, still in development, will cover elder abuse.

Those already trained in family violence intervention include 550 GPs and 540 midwives. Protocols and training programmes have been developed for both Plunket and the Family Planning Association and a 'train the trainer' programme has been developed for all DHB emergency and child health services.

Four District Health Boards are implementing the Ministry's Family Violence Intervention Guidelines within their services. A number of others have appointed family violence co-ordinators to implement the guidelines.

Dr Tuohy says the $700,000 spend on hapu and marae programmes are part of the implementation of the "Te Rito Family Violence Prevention Education Framework' which was completed in June, 2004. This supports healthy relationships and safe behaviours in families and whanau by challenging the underlying attitudes and beliefs that support and tolerate violent and abusive behaviour.

ENDS

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