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U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommends Screening Women for Intimate Partner Violence

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommends Screening Women for Intimate Partner Violence

June 14, 2012 — The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on Tuesday released a draft statement that recommends physicians ask female patients ages 14 to 46 whether they currently are experiencing intimate partner violence or have in the past, Reuters/Chicago Tribune reports. The guidelines update a 2004 statement in which the task force said there was not enough evidence to recommend screening women about the subject (Pittman, Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 6/12).

USPSTF has posted the draft on its website for public comment through July 10. If the recommendation stands, it would affect health insurance coverage because insurers are required to cover many USPSTF-recommended preventive services under the federal health reform law (PL 111-148), CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, CQ HealthBeat, 6/12).

The panel said that a range of techniques -- such as having women fill out a questionnaire and having physicians ask a few brief questions -- are effective for determining whether women are facing abuse (Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 6/12).

Recent studies also indicate that screening women of childbearing age can lead to "moderate health improvements through the reduction of exposure to abuse, as well as physical and mental harms and mortality," according to USPSTF. The panel noted several health effects of intimate partner violence, including "sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease and unintended pregnancy." Intimate partner violence also is associated with negative pregnancy-related outcomes, including preterm birth, low birth weights and decreased gestational age.

The panel said there is insufficient evidence to recommend screening elderly and other vulnerable adults for abuse and neglect (CQ HealthBeat, 6/12).