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Using Health as an Entry Point to Address Intimate Partner Violence: Insights from India

With extraordinarily high levels of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women, India needs effective policy and programmatic interventions. Although Indian women who experience IPV do not typically seek help from police or support agencies, they will seek health care for injuries as well as a range of other services. In fact, women's utilization of reproductive health services (including family planning and maternal and child health services) has increased substantially across India over the past few decades, and has made these services important entry points for IPV prevention and management. Moreover, given that IPV is known to increase the risk of adverse reproductive, maternal, and child health outcomes, failure to address the issue in these settings threatens the effectiveness of women's health promotion efforts. Research has demonstrated the feasibility, acceptability and potential effectiveness of IPV prevention and management interventions within and by the public primary and tertiary health care systems in India. Research and small scale programmatic efforts have also underscored the need for policy-level responses to support continued evidence generation and scale-up of successful strategies. In this presentation, I begin by describing the prevalence of IPV and related adverse outcomes in India, and then go on to highlight research and programmatic experiences that support the use of health as an entry point to address IPV. I conclude by proposing four key recommendations to policy-makers, namely, articulation of a commitment to health systems responses to IPV, development of guidelines and protocols for health systems responses, allocation of resources to build systems-level capacities, strengthen inter-sectoral linkages to improve access to health and non-health support services, and establish accountability mechanisms, and support of research and evidence generation on health-based interventions to address IPV.