Asking standard questions of female patients of childbearing age shows a 'moderate net benefit' and little risk, a federal advisory panel says.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.
"The bottom line is that more research is needed on how primary-care clinicians can effectively screen and protect all populations, including older and vulnerable adults, middle-aged women, men and children from abuse and violence," said Dr. David Grossman, a Seattle pediatrician and task force member.
The guidelines apply only to women aged 14 to 46 who do not show obvious signs of physical or sexual abuse that would otherwise prompt questions from healthcare providers. Though the report acknowledged that women of childbearing age were not the only people who suffered abuse at the hands of former or current intimate partners, evidence was still insufficient to recommend broader screenings, the authors said.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.