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Preventing Violence Can Reduce Health Care Costs

May 8, 2009

The American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) National Advisory Council on Violence and Abuse convened violence prevention and health experts on April 16 to brief congressional staff about how victims exposed to violence and abuse access health care more frequently and at a greater cost than those without that history. Experts said that physical, sexual and psychological violence can have a significant impact on victims’ long-term health, and that effective intervention and prevention strategies can decrease the health care costs associated with the short- and long-term consequences of abuse paid by private and public insurers.

Studies show that women who have experienced domestic violence are 80 percent more likely to have a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, 60 percent more likely to have asthma and 70 percent more likely to drink heavily than women who have not experienced intimate partner violence. Children who experience childhood trauma, including witnessing incidents of domestic violence, are at a greater risk of having serious adult health problems including tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression and a higher risk for unintended pregnancy.

The briefing featured: Phaedra Corso, Ph.D., University of Georgia; David Corwin, M.D., AMA’s National Advisory Council on Violence and Abuse Chair; W. Rodney Hammond, Ph.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Connie Mitchell, California Medical Association and University of California, Davis; and Kiersten Stewart, Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF).

“Dating, domestic and sexual violence and child abuse are health care problems of epidemic proportions in this country,” FVPF Public Policy Director Stewart said. “Violence has immediate health consequences through injury, but it also can cause life-threatening conditions that affect survivors and witnesses throughout their lives.”

“Every year, millions of Americans are exposed to violence and abuse as victims, witnesses and even perpetrators, and these experiences lead to dramatically high costs to our health care system,” AMA National Advisory Council on Violence and Abuse Chair David Corwin, M.D., said. “The long-term costs of this violence are less obvious, but they are an even greater public health concern.” Corwin moderated the briefing.

It was sponsored by: FVPF, AMA National Advisory Council on Violence and Abuse, Academy on Violence and Abuse, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, and Nursing Network on Violence Against Women. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lois Capps (D-CA), John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and James Moran (D-VA) and Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) were honorary co-chairs.

The Academy on Violence and Abuse recently released a white paper, Hidden Costs in Health Care, The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse, which was available at the briefing. It provides an overview of the research in this area and finds that expenses related to violence and abuse may cost the health care system hundreds of billions of dollars each year. The full white paper is available at http://avahealth.org.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1,200 deaths and two million injuries to women from intimate partner violence each year. On average, three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends each day in this country. 15.5 million U.S. children live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year, and seven million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred.

“As health care reform advances, violence prevention needs to be an integral part of the discussion,” Stewart added. “As we heard here today, violence prevention can play a key role in reducing health care costs. In the current economic climate, saving valuable health care dollars is essential.”

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