Behavioural & Cognitive Sciences

Using e-learning to combat domestic violence

Domestic violence costs European countries billions of Euros a year in terms of healthcare and economic downturn.
The aim of a new project in the Institute of Health and Behaviour is to develop an on-line training to improve doctor's response to domestic violence.

A European epidemic

Domestic violence is considered a global health problem of epidemic proportions with serious consequences (1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence). It is defined as any gender-based act by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physicial, sexual or pyschological harm, including also economic violence and controlling behaviours.  

Health care professionals have an important role to play in identifying and responding appropriately, especially family doctors, who may be the first or only point of contact for victims who are often hesitant or unable to seek other sources of assistance. Victims tend not to disclose abuse if they are not specifically asked. Primary care professionals are undoubtedly in a unique position to offer a safe and confidential environment, not only to facilitate disclosure of violence, but also to offer appropriate support and referral to other resources and services.

Subject overlooked by training programmes

A comprehensive health care response is key to a coordinated community-wide approach to domestic violence, but most of the practicing physicians have received either no or insufficient education or training in any aspect of it. Training of medical students concerning domestic violence is often delivered in an inconsistent or ad hoc manner, and most health care professionals feel inadequately trained to care for victims of abuse. To assume their roles and responsibility, it is necessary to sensitise them towards family violence and provide them with the information and tools necessary to respond effectively.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have published guidelines for health services responding to intimate partner violence, emphasising the urgent need to improve the education of frontline health care professionals


E-learning as a solution

Over the last ten years, e-learning has become increasingly popular in the medical world and opens up new training possibilities. On-line courses are flexible, interactive, cheap and well adapted to the complicated shift patterns within the profession, and they facilitate on going training.

The presumed advantages of these tools are clear but their effectiveness in bringing about behaviour change in doctors remains to be seen.
This is the aim of the research project currently being carried out by Raquel Gómez Bravo at the University of Luxembourg. Her project includes two studies:

  • Study 1 (Family Violence Curricula in Europe: FAVICUE), collects data on current Family Violence (FV) education delivery in European medical universities during the undergraduate period, and also during postgraduate residency training (specialist training in General Practice (GP)/Family Medicine (FM)), and compares these curricula with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations for FV curriculum.
  • Study 2 (E-DOVER) concerns the development, implementation and systematic investigation of the efficacy of an e-learning programme to improve primary care professionals’ responses to domestic violence, using a randomised-controlled trial design.

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