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Domestic violence guidelines launched

Domestic violence guidelines launched

HEALTH care providers will be better-equipped to help adult and child victims of family violence with the launch today of new practical guidelines from the Ministry of Health.

"Health care providers are increasingly recognised as key players in New Zealand's efforts to wipe-out family violence," said Ministry spokesperson Dr Pat Tuohy.

"The Family Violence Intervention Guidelines : Child and Partner Abuse will give professional guidance to health professionals to improve their ability to identify, and to support victims of child and partner abuse to get real assistance," said Dr Tuohy.

The Guidelines - written for the Ministry by the Injury Prevention Research Centre at Auckland Medical School - are based on a review of 25 local and international protocols, consultation with health care providers and family violence experts.

Numerous groups were involved in the Guidelines' production, including The Paediatric Society of New Zealand, National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges, Nursing Education in the Tertiary Sector, and Australasian College of Emergency Medicine Specialists New Zealand Faculty.

The Guidelines include an integrated six-step model for identifying and responding to family violence within health care settings:

1. Identification - This includes asking adults about possible abuse in a non-threatening manner, recognising symptoms and in some cases screening for abuse.

2. Emotional Support/Empowerment of Confirmed or Suspected Victims of Abuse - Victims of all ages need clear messages of support and reassure them that they are not at fault, and that help is available.

3. Risk Assessment - The purpose of risk assessment and subsequent referral is to determine the likely level of immediate risk for a patient leaving the health care setting.

4. Safety Planning/Intervention - Useful intervention options help victims to contact support services and access legal options for protection of abused women. Safety plans prepared for victims can include helping them avoid injury and escape violent incidences.

5. Documentation - Careful documentation of injuries can assist abused partners to obtain protection orders immediately or in the future, and can assist CYF and police investigations of child abuse.

6. Referral Agencies - External referral agencies are vital in providing support to actual or suspected victims of partner abuse and child abuse.

Dr Tuohy, Chief Advisor Child and Youth Health, said health professionals currently get little training or knowledge in how to support victims of abuse, which can sometimes lead to tragic consequences.

He said the context of this screening approach is the same as health professionals use everyday when asking patients about smoking, nutrition and alcohol intake.

"There have been some concerns raised that the evidence for benefit from this intervention is lacking. However, there is good evidence that women find this approach acceptable and that it can change their lives for the better," said Dr Tuohy.

"This doesn't mean that all of the evidence is in. Ongoing research and robust evaluation of programmes like this are essential to ensure that we maximise the effectiveness of resources spent in his area."

This initiative is only one part of a multi-agency response to reduce domestic violence.

"We need to ensure that Government departments such as the Police, and Child, Youth and Family maintain the partnership with health providers in ensuring prompt and sensitive response to these problems.

"We must also look at frontline workers, who face a difficult and thankless task as the level of violence in our society increases and they need to pick up the pieces of people's lives."

The Guidelines are part of the Ministry of Health's Family Violence Project, which aims to increase the responsiveness of the health sector to family violence by facilitating the development of practice protocols for health providers, facilitating access to training for health professionals and establishing family violence prevention campaigns.

The Guidelines will be launched today at a ceremony at Te Papa in the Rangimarie Room, at 11.10am. Copies of the Guidelines will be available on the Publications section of the Ministry of Health website: www.moh.govt.nz

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