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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Helping Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): 01/13/2014

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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The new availability of insurance to cover screening and counseling for women exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) fosters a need for increased assistance to help children, notes a perspective recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The perspective’s four authors explain since August 2012 clinical IPV interventions have been covered as an essential health service for women (under the Affordable Care Act) for the first time.

Although the authors salute this development, they add and we quote: ‘discussions about health care providers’ role in IPV screening and intervention…often fail to consider the profound effects of childhood exposure to IPV – an omission that renders these children silent victims’ (end of quote).

For example, the authors note recent evidence suggests child exposure to IPV increases the frequency and severity of childhood asthma. The authors explain recent research suggests children exposed to IPV experience a comparatively elevated risk of airway inflammation and hyperreactivity that promotes asthma’s onset.

The authors add recent research suggests IPV exposure (and we quote) ‘affects the usual pruning of infants’ neurocircuitry’ (end of quote), which impacts brain cell loss and damage.

The authors explain a recent meta-analysis also found more than 60 percent of the children who witness IPV experience subsequent emotional problems, which is significantly higher than rates for children from homes without IPV.

The authors explain (and we quote): ‘children can be directly exposed to IPV (for example present in the room where the violence is occurring) or indirectly exposed – that is, affected by effects of violence (such as maternal depression, trauma symptoms, or changes in parenting)’ (end of quote).

The authors report more than 15 million American children live in a home where IPV occurs. The authors note about seven million children witness severe violence, which includes a parent using a weapon to assault another parent.

The authors join the American Academy of Pediatrics to support routine IPV screening at the time of well-child visits. The authors additionally encourage pediatricians and other providers to work with hospital and community IPV programs as well as local IPV advocates. While the authors acknowledge reporting laws for IPV and childhood exposure vary by state, the authors emphasize physicians often have access to: child mental health professionals, community IPV assistance, and hospital-based IPV child protection teams. 

MedlinePlus.gov’s domestic violence health topic page contains a link to a website that provides information to assist children exposed to domestic violence (from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) within the ‘child’ section. A website written for young persons (called ‘When your parents fight’) that is provided by Nemours Foundation also is found within the ‘child’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s domestic violence health topic page.

An overview of information to protect yourself and your children from IPV (provided by the American Academy of Family Physicians) is provided in the ‘start here’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s domestic violence health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s domestic violence health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about domestic violence as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s domestic violence health topic page, type ‘domestic violence’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘domestic violence (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also contains health topic pages on social/family issues and child abuse.

While we acknowledge it is sensitive to discuss IPV during the holiday season, the perspective’s commendable intent is to generate more awareness of how children are affected by IPV and suggest some constructive steps health care providers can take to help impacted kids.

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I want to take the opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and a healthy New Year. The National Library of Medicine and the ‘Director’s Comments’ podcast staff, including Dr. Lindberg, appreciate your interest and company — and we hope to find new ways to serve you in 2014.