Medical Advocacy is the healthcare-based identification of domestic violence victims seeking support, information, education, resources, and follow-up services through medical treatment within the healthcare setting. It also includes developing, and implementing policies and procedures to enhance the health care response to victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a very serious health care issue. Medical advocacy works to provide the necessary information to medical and emergency medical personnel to recognize signs of abuse and to screen all patients for domestic violence. The medical community can utilize these tools in order to effectively understand, identify, and assess potential victims of domestic violence. They can then refer survivors to appropriate agencies for services. Medical professionals have a unique and critical opportunity to provide information that can be the first step in developing a plan to protect the safety and health of a survivor of domestic violence. Once survivors are identified, medical practitioners need to be prepared with guidelines on clinical documentation, policies, and protocol. The medical advocate works with area health service providers to prepare them with this information.
Hospital: Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers
Address: 2800 95th St, Evergreen Park, IL 60805
Advocate Telephone: (708) 422-6200
The Medical Advocacy Program provides support services at Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Providers in Evergreen Park to individuals and families affected by domestic violence. Medical advocates provide emotional support, education on the dynamics of domestic violence, safety planning tailored to the individual’s situation, counseling and legal assistance referrals and resources. The Medical Advocacy Program staff is available to train medical staff and students, first responders and other medical personnel about the dynamics of domestic violence and its application in the medical setting.
For more information or to schedule a medical training, contact Director of Victim Services, Maria S. Cedeño at 708.429.7255 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Domestic violence is a health care issue, not only because of its immediate health consequences but also because of its links to other life-threatening and fatal conditions that affect victims and survivors throughout the lifespan.
Domestic violence is associated with eight of the ten leading health indicators for Healthy People 2010, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Domestic violence increases the risk of smoking, high-risk alcohol use, injuries and homicide, mental health problems, sexual risk-taking, late entry into prenatal care and poor nutrition. Children of battered women are less likely to get immunized.
The numbers are staggering: 30-45% of female patients seeking emergency services, 21-66% of those seeking general medical care, and up to 20% of those seeking prenatal care, report experiencing intimate partner abuse.
Nationally, nearly one-third of American women (31%) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. On average, more than three women are murdered by their partners in this country every day.
There is also a huge health impact on children who witness domestic violence. They are at risk of becoming potential victims or harmed when they attempt to intervene to stop the violence. In addition, children exposed to domestic violence show very high rates of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. They also are more likely to exhibit behavioral and physical health problems including chronic somatic complaints, depression, anxiety and violence towards peers. They are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol, run away from home, and engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. They have increased difficulties with learning and school functioning due to sleep difficulties, poor concentration and distractibility. Clearly, the health care costs related to domestic violence are enormous.
First and foremost, health care providers should ask all of their patients, alone and carefully, about their safety in relationships. Just listening can be a huge benefit for survivors. Health care providers can convey messages that the health care setting is a safe place for them, that it is not their fault that this is happening, that the health care provider is sorry that this is happening and wants to help them to be safe. They can explain that domestic violence rarely stops on its own; rather, it tends to escalate without intervention.
Health care providers can give clear messages that they care about the safety of their patients in their personal relationships. They can hang informational posters and tear-off sheets in examining rooms and bathrooms. They can place brochures in waiting areas. But most importantly, they need to acknowledge that domestic violence is a huge, growing problem that can happen to anyone. They need to ask all of their patients, privately and sincerely, about their safety.
Health care providers can of course address health care needs, whether related to the domestic violence, and explain to victims the short and long-term impact that domestic violence can have on health care. This includes acute trauma and injury, chronic pain, headaches, fatigue, depression, chronic stress, anxiety, thoughts about suicide, more hospitalizations, STDs, pregnancy complications, alcohol and substance abuse, central nervous and cardiac symptoms and, most tragically, death.
Health care providers can help survivors by connecting them to local agencies, like ours. We can help them plan for their safety, and that of any children, and explore their options as well as offer counseling and assistance in important areas such as housing, jobs, and financial assistance.