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AHRQ Unveils New Web-Based Instrument to Help Hospitals Assess Domestic Violence Programs

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Press Release Date: October 9, 2002

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality today announced the availability of a new evaluation instrument that hospitals can use to assess the quality and effectiveness of their domestic violence programs. The instrument and instructions can be downloaded from the Agency's Web site at

Hospitals can use this instrument to assess how well hospital-based programs provide training for health care professionals in recognizing domestic violence, patient screening to determine their risk of domestic violence and future injury, and intervention, including medical treatment and victim advocacy services and followup. The tool asks 38 questions and provides guidance to hospitals in assessing the performance of their programs.

Estimates are that 2 percent to 4 percent of all women seen in hospital emergency departments have acute trauma associated with domestic violence and another 10 percent to 12 percent of women have a recent history of domestic violence. While the majority of injuries sustained by domestic violence victims are classified as superficial, an estimated 73,000 hospitalizations and 1,500 deaths among women are attributed to domestic violence each year.

"Health care professionals, victim advocacy groups, health care institutions, and others have been working together to improve the health care response to domestic violence," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "This instrument will help ensure that hospitals, as part of this unified response, are providing high-quality, effective programs that truly meet the needs of the victims of domestic violence."

Jeffrey H. Coben, M.D., who served as the AHRQ's Domestic Violence Senior Scholar-in-Residence from 2000-2001, developed the instrument. Dr. Coben now is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine and Director of the Center for Violence and Injury Control, Allegheny-Singer Research Institute, Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA. His work at the Agency was co-sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, which is the nation's premier organization working to prevent domestic violence.

The instrument incorporates the consensus and expertise of 18 nationally known experts on domestic violence, and it has been extensively field tested. Hospital programs are evaluated against nine measures: hospital policies and procedures, hospital physical environment, hospital cultural environment, training of providers, screening and safety assessment, documentation, intervention services, evaluation activities, and collaboration. The instrument has not been tested for use in other settings, including private physician offices or outpatient clinics.

Hospitals can use the instrument to:

  • Develop useful benchmarks or objectives for program achievement.
  • Assess an individual site's performance over time to determine progress in program implementation.
  • Compare and contrast different programs across different sites.
  • Help determine which program features are most important in creating positive long-term outcomes for domestic violence victims, such as improved health and safety.

"This new tool is a very important development in our efforts to help the victims of domestic violence," says Esta Soler, President of the Family Violence Prevention Fund. "It will help hospitals have a sustainable and organized response to the victims of domestic violence and their health care needs."

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs, (301) 427-1364: Farah Englert, (301) 427-1865 (


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