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Am J Prev Med. 2002 Aug;23(2):82-90.

Domestic violence compared to other health risks: a survey of physicians' beliefs and behaviors.

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Division of Behavioral Sciences (Gerbert, Carlton, Herzig, Danley, Caspers), University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94117, USA.



Physicians routinely confront patient risk behaviors once considered private, including tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and HIV/STD-risk behavior. We compared physicians' behaviors and beliefs on screening and intervention for domestic violence with each other risk.


Survey of nationwide, random sample of 610 primary care physicians from the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile.


Fewer primary care physicians screened for domestic violence than for other risks (p <0.001); once domestic violence was identified, however, physicians intervened with equal or greater frequency than for other risks. Fewer believed that they knew how to screen or intervene for domestic violence compared with other risks, and significantly fewer believed that domestic violence interventions were successful compared with interventions for tobacco and HIV/STD risks (Bonferroni adjusted p<0.001).


Lower domestic violence screening rates may reflect physicians' beliefs that they do not know how to screen or intervene, and that interventions are less successful for domestic violence than for other risks. We may improve screening rates by educating physicians that a simplified role, as for other risks, can be effective for domestic violence.

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