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Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Intimate partner violence against women is a widespread and global problem affecting the health and lives of millions of women and their children. WHO 2013 estimates that worldwide, almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, with regional prevalence of 37% in the WHO African and Eastern Mediterranean region and 37.7% in the South-east Asia regions.(1) This same report documents the tremendous impacts of this violence on women's physical, sexual and reproductive and mental health.

Most of the published evidence for prevention comes from high-income countries, but there are also experiences of promising interventions, several of them from low- and middle-income countries, which need further testing. These include interventions to empower women economically and financially and to change social norms, laws and policies that perpetuate inequality between women and men. Interventions to prevent child abuse and dating violence are also important but will be addressed in a separate presentation.

While a focus on preventing violence before it starts (primary prevention) is necessary, identification and early intervention when violence is present is also important and the health system has an important role to play in this. The health system can also contribute to address factors like depression, or harmful use of alcohol, or other substances, which frequently co-exist with violence and can exacerbate its impacts. Interventions to address partner violence in antenatal care have been shown to be effective in reducing recurrence of partner violence in high-income countries and there is potential for using antenatal care services for preventive interventions with fathers.