VIOLENCE: Abuse of Women Leads to Health Woes
One in every three women worldwide has been beaten, raped or otherwise abused -- leading to widespread health problems, according to a report released yesterday by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Center for Health and Gender Equity. Researchers collected data from 2,000 domestic-violence studies around the world that showed violence against women can be linked to pregnancy problems -- including miscarriages, stillbirths, premature labor, fetal distress and infant deaths -- substance abuse, gastrointestinal disorders and chronic pain symptoms. "Women who have a history of abuse are at a much higher risk of having these chronic conditions than other women," co-author Lori Heise says. One Nicaraguan study found that children of abused women were six times more likely than other children to die before age 5, while an Indian report showed that abused women were more likely to suffer miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths.
The analysis serves as a wake-up call to world health leaders that violence against women "should be treated as a global health problem rather than just a law-enforcement matter," the report's authors argue. "I see the health care setting as an opportunity ... to perhaps prevent a health problem from materializing," Heise explains. The authors argue that health professionals have an "ideal vantage point to identify and assist victims of abuse" because of their close contact with women. Gynecologist John Nelson, spokeperson for the American Medical Association, said he agrees, noting, "The bottom line is physicians and all heath care workers are in a unique position to determine if inappropriate relationships exist and intervene very early in the game" (Hotchkin, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/21).