People who live with domestic and/or gender-based violence find themselves in a state of chronic stress, on permanent alert, which greatly affects their quality of life. It has been shown that there is a higher prevalence of several diseases, such as cardiovascular, digestive, and psychiatric and behavioural disorders, in people who live in stressful circumstances. People who find themselves in this situation therefore end up paying a very high price in terms of health.
Healthcare institutions have a strategic role to play in addressing domestic and/or gender-based violence, because healthcare centres are places where new cases can be detected and they also have the ability to intervene, access specific information and have the means to act.
Concealing or omitting information can be a major obstacle to detecting cases of domestic and gender-based violence, and to finding a possible solution to the health problems related to the stress caused by this violence, including legal measures.
Many studies assessing the effect of domestic violence on health have shown that it is useful to obtain information which may not be overt. According to women who have been abused, one of the most important moments in interacting with healthcare personnel (DI.T.S.) is when they are able to talk about their abusive situation. Approximately 75% of women, regardless of age or history of abuse, state that it is necessary for healthcare personnel to ask about abuse. Patients do not consider it disrespectful to be asked questions aimed at determining their family situation.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends "universal and systematic" screening in the health sector in order to more effectively detect survivors of violence (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention related to Health, FastStats).
Creation of the Commission for Domestic and Gender-based Violence at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona
The history of the Commission for Domestic and Gender-based Violence at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona dates from 1998, when a group of healthcare professionals from the hospital's Emergency Department, where the issue of gender-based violence was observed daily, established a course of action to better coordinate care for abused individuals and raise awareness among other healthcare professionals at the hospital. The current Commission for Domestic and Gender-based Violence (CVIG) was established in 2000 in order to work on caring for all kinds of people subjected to violence, be they women (who are most often in this situation), men, minors or the elderly.
The Commission comprises a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals, nurses and social workers, and has the following main objectives:
- To encourage awareness and responsibility among healthcare professionals in situations of domestic and gender-based violence.
- To coordinate all activities performed in relation to this situation (care processes, training and investigation, etc.).
- To analyse the objective situation of the abused person and his or her treatment within the scope of the Grupo Clínic.
- To promote and encourage the detection of cases of abuse.
- To design care processes and develop action protocols with the information required for proper compliance.
- To assess compliance with processes and protocols.
- To develop and disseminate new trends in this area of care.
- To coordinate and encourage research.
- To make a system of information available in coordination with that established by the healthcare administration.
In addition to developing and drafting in-house processes and protocols, the activities carried out by the Commission for Domestic and Gender-based Violence include developing different guides and brochures for the public, drafting reports of these activities and organising specialised conferences.