Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

Happy World Breastfeeding Week (8/1-8/7)! This year’s theme, “Empower parents, enable breastfeeding” is a particularly poignant reminder of how the U.S. government is doing neither for parents and infants entering at the southern border. It is critical to consider the effects of involuntary separation of breastfeeding mothers and their children.

There are short- and long-term physical, emotional, and economic consequences of abrupt discontinuation of lactation. Lactating individuals need to express milk to relieve the pain and fullness in their breasts to avoid plugged ducts and mastitis, a breast infection requiring medical attention. If there is no provision of time, space, and privacy for regularly expressing milk, those individuals will gradually lose their milk supply. Shortened, suboptimal lactation increases risks for breast and ovarian cancers, and metabolic and other diseases and costs $302 billion globally [1].

Infants who no longer receive human milk need a substitute, which will be inherently nutritionally inferior to human milk and cannot provide them the immunologic protection they received from their mothers’ milk [2]. Those infants will need to learn how to feed from a bottle, which may cause distress, can introduce bacteria, and may teach them to ignore satiety cues [3], increasing their risk for overeating as they get older.

Emotionally, the parent–infant bond is severed with involuntary separation. Breastfeeding is not just a feeding method, but also provides an infant with temperature regulation and comfort. We have witnessed maternal distress from this inhumane practice [4]; it is likely that an infant’s distress would be extreme.

On top of the life changing health effects of abrupt discontinuation of breastfeeding, the most egregious offense may be the negation of these individuals’ rights to breastfeed. They were feeding their children optimally until a poor substitute was imposed upon them for political reasons. Now those children have higher risks of infections and chronic disease, from the moment they were taken from their parents and for the rest of their lives.

There have been many discussions about the traumatic effects of parent-child separation but we have not seen or heard a discussion of effects due to abrupt cessation of lactation and breastfeeding. Those effects provide more compelling reasons to end this inhumane practice immediately.

Guest Blog Written By: Jennifer Yourkavitch, MPH, PhD, IBCLC – International Health Section Breastfeeding Forum Liaison, APHA and Research Scientist, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; Whitney P. Witt, PhD, MPH – Chair, Maternal and Child Health Section, APHA and Inaugural Dean and Professor, College of Health, Lehigh University; Briana Jegier, PhD – Chair, Breastfeeding Forum, APHA and Associate Professor, Health Services Administration, D’Youville College

References

1.      Lancet. (2016). Series on Breastfeeding. http://thelancet.com/series/breastfeeding. Accessed July 31, 2018.

2.      Mannel R., Martens P., & Walker M. (eds.). Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC, 2013.

3.      Li R., Fein S.B. & Grummer-Strawn LM. (2010). Do infants fed from bottles lack self-regulation of milk intake compared with directly breastfed infants? Pediatrics125(6).

4.      CNN. June 14, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/12/us/immigration-separated-children-southern-border/index.html. Accessed July 29, 2018.

Outcomes and Interventions for Sexually Transmitted Infections in sub-Saharan Africa

By Samantha Dulak BS and Heather F. McClintock PhD MSPH MSW

This is the second part of a IH Blog series featured this summer, Sexually Transmitted Infections in sub-Saharan Africa: Determinants, Outcomes, and Interventions.

Part II: Outcomes and Interventions for Sexually Transmitted Infections in sub-Saharan Africa

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a significant public health burden globally and are a leading cause of mortality in lower middle income countries (LMICs). In 2016, there were 988,000 women infected with syphilis worldwide, resulting in 350,000 deaths and delivery complications (Korenromp, Rowley, Alonso, et al., 2019). Human papillomavirus (HPV), an incurable STI, leads to over half a million new cases of cervical cancer every year (Bray, Ferlay, Soerjomataram, et al., 2018). Cervical cancer can be the result of other factors, however, in 90% of all cervical cancer cases that resulted in death, the cancer was caused by HPV (WHO, 2018). Of the 1.8 million newly diagnosed HIV infections each year, 940,000 individuals died globally from AIDS related factors (UNAIDS, 2019a). Unfortunately, a third of those deaths (302,700) are among females aged 15-49 living in sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS, 2019b). Higher rates of complications are found in sub-Saharan Africa because of inadequate clinician training, delayed diagnosis, and limited care seeking behaviors (Mayaud & Mabey, 2004). STI surveillance systems are absent or poorly functioning in Africa causing unreliable data on the prevalence of these infections.

STIs are common in low resource settings and their impact can be catastrophic on the lives of individuals. The list of potential complications is extensive. Untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia are associated with the development of arthritis, hepatitis B with liver cancer, and syphilis with central nervous system disorders (Aral, Over, Manhart, & Holmes, 2006). While all individuals are at risk, women and children are disproportionately affected by a greater burden of disability, as assessed by disability adjusted life years. Women suffering without treatment can experience chronic pelvic and abdominal inflammation leading to infertility, spontaneous abortions, and many adverse pregnancy outcomes (Chesson, Mayaud, & Aral, 2017). 

International attention on STI outcomes is imperative to reducing the incidence of STIs not only in sub-Saharan Africa, but globally. Most attention has focused on HIV due to the public health crisis we are experiencing now. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported that Africa has the highest burden of STIs compared to all other continents (Lewis, 2011). The UNAIDS 2018 report on the global AIDS epidemic found that there are 37.9 million people living with AIDS in the world and 20.6 million of them live in eastern and southern Africa (UNAIDS, 2019a). 

Prevention strategies in sub-Saharan Africa place a heavy emphasis on sexual health education. A meta analysis of 51 papers reported that while school-based sexual health education significantly increased condom usage, there was no significant effect on the incidence of STIs (Sani, Abraham, Denford, & Ball, 2016). This information is promising, though. School aged children are experiencing positive behavior changes through the use of physical protection methods. Some studies even report a change of attitude towards persons living with HIV/AIDS (Paul-Ebhohimhen, Poobalan, & van Teijlingen, 2008). However, a focus on at-risk groups is missing. Sex workers, men who have sex with men, and intravenous drug users all have high susceptability to contracting an STI and greater attention needs to be directed towards prevention in these populations to reduce the incidence of STIs. 

To address the vast number of cases of cervical cancer caused by HPV, many sub-Saharan countries now qualify for assistance from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. As of 2018, eight countries have HPV vaccine programs for school aged children, with pilot programs implemented in nearly 16 additional countries (Black and Richmond, 2018). Data for all 8 countries is not public as of now, but of the five countries with available data, the success rate for at least one dose of the vaccine is 83% (Black and Richmond, 2018). Rwanda was the only country to successfully complete three doses, covering 98.7% of girls (Black and Richmond, 2018).

From a global perspective, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to ensure access to sexual and reproductive care and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 (UN General Assembly, 2015). Primary prevention strategies have become popular among many countries to promote these goals. In 2018, the WHO reported on global STI surveillance, indicating that 44% of countries have HPV vaccines in their immunization programs (WHO, 2018). To reach those who are not benefiting from immunization initiatives, the 2016 Global STI Strategy, along with strategies for HIV and viral hepatitis, fight to meet the SDG 2030 agenda (WHO, 2018). The Global STI Strategy focuses on creating affordable interventions for at-risk individuals and adolescents in all countries. These plans are financed and delivered by promoting universal health care coverage to keep costs low (WHO, 2018). Additionally, the Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme (GASP) has improved national monitoring of antimicrobial resistance to gonorrhea in order to provide stronger data for new treatment research (Wi et al., 2017).

Samantha Dulak BS

Ms. Dulak was a biology major and global public health minor at Arcadia University. She has a strong interest in nutrition as well as maternal and child health. She now hopes to attend graduate school for public health and pediatrics.

Heather F. McClintock PhD MSPH MSW 

Dr. McClintock is an IH Section Member and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, College of Health Sciences at Arcadia University. She earned her Master of Science in Public Health from the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. McClintock received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on health behavior and promotion. Her research broadly focuses on the prevention, treatment, and management of chronic disease and disability globally. Recent research aims to understand and reduce the burden of intimate partner violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to completing her doctorate she served as a Program Officer at the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and a Senior Project Manager in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania. At the University of Pennsylvania she led several research initiatives that involved improving patient compliance and access to quality healthcare services including the Spectrum of Depression in Later Life and Integrating Management for Depression and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Studies.

References

Aral, S.O., Over, M., Manhart, L., Holmes, K.K. (2006). Sexually Transmitted Infections. In Jamison, D.T., Breman, J.G., Measham, A.R, Alleyne, G., Claeson, M., Evans, D.B., Jha, P., Mills, A., Musgrove, P. (Eds), Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries, second edition. 311–30. Washington (DC): World Bank and Oxford University Press.

Black, E., Richmond, R. (2018) Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Advantages and Challenges of HPV Vaccination. Vaccines, 6(3), 61. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/vaccines6030061

Bray, F., Ferlay, J., Soerjomataram, I., Siegel, R.L., Torre, L.A., Ahmedin, J. (2018). Global Cancer Statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 68: 394–424.

Chesson, H.W., Mayaud, P., & Aral, S.O. (2017). Sexually Transmitted Infections: Impact and Cost-Effectiveness of Prevention. In Holmes, K.K., Bertozzi, S., Bloom, B.R., & Jha, P. (Eds.), Major Infectious Diseases, third edition. Washington (DC): The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and The World Bank.

Mayaud, P., Mabey, D. (2004). Approaches to the Control of Sexually Transmitted Infections in Developing Countries: Old Problems and Modern Challenges. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 80(3), 174–182. doi: 10.1136/sti.2002.004101

Korenromp, E.L., Rowley, J., Alonso, M., Mello, M.B., Wijesooriya, N.S., et al. (2019) Global burden of maternal and congenital syphilis and associated adverse birth outcomes—Estimates for 2016 and progress since 2012. PLOS One, 14(2): e0211720.

Lewis, D.A. (2011). HIV/sexually transmitted infection epidemiology, management and control in the IUSTI Africa region: focus on sub-Saharan Africa Sexually Transmitted Infections. BMJ, 87(2), ii10-ii13. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2011-050178

Paul-Ebhohimhen, V.A., Poobalan, A., van Teijlingen, E.R. (2008). A systematic review of school-based sexual health interventions to prevent STI/HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. BMC Public Health, 8(4). doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-8-4

Sani, A.S., Abraham, C., Denford, S., & Ball, S. (2016). School-based sexual health education interventions to prevent STI/HIV in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health, 16, 1069. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3715-4

UN General Assembly. (2015). Transforming our world : the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved 16 July 20219 from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/health/

UNAIDS. (2019a). Global HIV & AIDS statistics — 2019 fact sheet. Retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet

UNAIDS. (2019b). In sub-Saharan Africa, three in five new HIV infections among 15–19-year-olds are among girls. Retrieved 15 July 2019 from https://www.unaids.org/en/resources/infographics/women_girls_hiv_sub_saharan_africa

Wi, T., Lahra, M. M., Ndowa, F., Bala, M., Dillon, J. R., Ramon-Pardo, P., . . . Unemo, M. (2017). Antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae: Global surveillance and a call for international collaborative action. PLoS Medicine, 14(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002344

The World Health Organization [WHO]. (2018). Report on global sexually transmitted infection surveillance. Retrieved 15 July 2019 from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/277258/9789241565691-eng.pdf?ua=1.

Sexually Transmitted Infections in Sub-Saharan Africa

By: Samantha Dulak BS and Heather McClintock PhD MSPH MSW

This is the first part of a IH Blog series featured this summer, Sexually Transmitted Infections in Sub-Saharan Africa: Determinants, Outcomes, and Interventions.

Part I: Sexually Transmitted Infections in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are common acute conditions that while exacting a tremendous toll on health and well-being currently receive minimal media coverage and attention. This is likely due to resources being allocated to other new and emerging conditions, the stigma associated with people who are perceived to be able to contract STIs, and a lack of education about STI symptoms and treatment. STIs range from curable (syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichinosis) to incurable (HPV and HIV/AIDS) infections. The nearly 30 STIs are most commonly transmitted through sexual encounters, but contact with blood and mother to child transmission during pregnancy are other ways STIs can be spread (Newman et al., 2015). Comparing the four curable STIs globally, sub-Saharan Africa had the highest incidence and prevalence of syphilis and gonorrhea (Chesson, Mayaud, & Aral, 2017). Unfortunately, STIs can raise HIV transmission up to four times which is why controlling STIs is at the top of the public health professional’s radar (Stillwaggon & Sawers, 2015). The highest prevalence of HIV is found in sub-Saharan Africa with 53% of the world’s HIV population living there and 56% of those individuals being women (UNAIDS, 2018). Although incidence rates are falling globally, 1.8 million people were newly diagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017; there is much more work to be done to reach the 2020 goal of less than 500,000 new cases in this region (UNAIDS, 2018). The current estimates state that 66% of all new global HIV infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS, 2018).

STIs affect people of all socioeconomic classes in every country. Without proper precautions, no one is immune from these infections. STIs in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly important because the largest estimates are reported in this region and public health advances can provide insight and hope to other countries that are affected. Combating the negative stigma around STIs will increase the amount of people who will know their status, subsequently increasing treatment for those infections that are treatable. Furthermore, globalization perpetuates the spread of STIs across geographic boundaries highlighting the importance of acknowledging and addressing STIs on a broad scale.

STIs cause major pregnancy complications such as ectopic pregnancies, infertility, and spontaneous abortions (Chesson, Mayaud, & Aral, 2017). In both men and women, liver cancer, central nervous system diseases, and arthritis are all common comorbidities (Aral, Over, Manhart, & Holmes, 2006). Due to insufficient diagnosis and treatment in many lower and middle income countries, the rates of complications are much higher. This inadequacy can be attributed to the asymptomatic nature of some STIs, lack of education on the topic, or poor care-seeking behaviors (Mayaud & Mabey, 2004).

There are many at-risk groups for contracting STIs, including men who have sex with men, female sex workers, children born to women with STIs, and intravenous drug users. An interesting connection to be made exists for women who experience intimate partner violence (IPV). IPV can include physical or sexual violence, stalking, and psychological control over one’s spouse or dating partner (Centers for Disease Control, 2019). Women are already disproportionately affected by STIs, and these rates are greatest in women who also have reported cases of IPV. One answer for this is that women who have experienced IPV are more likely to have high-risk partners (Miller, 1999). Abusive partners may express coercive behaviors both within and outside of the relationship (Miller, 1999). Additionally, people experiencing IPV can suffer psychological trauma leading them to have impaired decision-making skills and experience increased risk-taking behavior (Miller, 1999).

As of 2018, the World Health Organization has been utilizing the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Global AIDS Monitoring system to quantify cases of STIs at the country level and the Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme (GASP) to follow antimicrobial resistance for the treatable STI, gonorrhea (Wi et al., 2017). For GASP to have continued success, international collaboration must be strengthened to develop advanced screening procedures and novel antibiotic treatments. By continually improving both monitoring systems, there may be hope for new vaccines for STIs we are still not protected from. Since antimicrobial resistance is not evolving at the same time across all countries, sharing data and laboratory methods for new pharmaceutical development is imperative to control the spread of STIs in sub-Saharan Africa (Wi et al., 2017).

References

Aral, S.O., Over, M., Manhart, L., Holmes, K.K. (2006). Sexually Transmitted Infections. In Jamison, D.T., Breman, J.G., Measham, A.R, Alleyne, G., Claeson, M., Evans, D.B., Jha, P., Mills, A., Musgrove, P. (Eds), Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries, second edition. 311–30. Washington (DC): World Bank and Oxford University Press.

Center for Disease Control [CDC]. (2019). Preventing Intimate Partner Violence. Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/fastfact.html

Chesson, H.W., Mayaud, P., & Aral, S.O. (2017). Sexually Transmitted Infections: Impact and Cost-Effectiveness of Prevention. In Holmes, K.K., Bertozzi, S., Bloom, B.R., & Jha, P. (Eds.), Major Infectious Diseases, third edition. Washington (DC): The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and The World Bank.

Mayaud, P., Mabey, D. (2004). Approaches to the Control of Sexually Transmitted Infections in Developing Countries: Old Problems and Modern Challenges. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 80(3), 174–182. doi: 10.1136/sti.2002.004101

Miller, M. (1999). A model to explain the relationship between sexual abuse and HIV risk among women. AIDS Care, 11(1), 3-20. doi:10.1080/09540129948162

Newman, L., Rowley, J., Hoorn, S. V., Wijesooriya, N. S., Unemo, M., Low, N., . . . Temmerman, M. (2015). Global Estimates of the Prevalence and Incidence of Four Curable Sexually Transmitted Infections in 2012 Based on Systematic Review and Global Reporting. PLos One, 10(12). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143304

Stillwaggon, E., & Sawers, L. (2015). Rush to judgment: The STI-treatment trials and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of the International AIDS Society, 18(1), 19844. doi:10.7448/ias.18.1.19844

UNAIDS. UNAIDS: Data 2018. 2018. https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/unaids-data-2018_en.pdf (accessed 26 May 2019).

Wi, T., Lahra, M. M., Ndowa, F., Bala, M., Dillon, J. R., Ramon-Pardo, P., . . . Unemo, M. (2017). Antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae: Global surveillance and a call for international collaborative action. PLoS Medicine, 14(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002344

Samantha Dulak

Samantha Dulak is a recent graduate from Arcadia University. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Minor in Global Public Health. Her enthusiasm for medicine and disease prevention perfectly intertwine these two fields of study. Her current public health interests are in maternal and child health and nutrition. Since graduation, Samantha has applied to naturopathic medical school with a goal of becoming a pediatric physician. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing sports, and baking.

Dr. Heather F. McClintock PhD MSPH MSW

Dr. McClintock is an IH Section Member and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, College of Health Sciences at Arcadia University. She earned her Master of Science in Public Health from the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. McClintock received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on health behavior and promotion. Her research broadly focuses on the prevention, treatment, and management of chronic disease and disability globally. Recent research aims to understand and reduce the burden of intimate partner violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to completing her doctorate she served as a Program Officer at the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and a Senior Project Manager in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania. At the University of Pennsylvania she led several research initiatives that involved improving patient compliance and access to quality healthcare services including the Spectrum of Depression in Later Life and Integrating Management for Depression and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Studies.

Interventions and Strategies for Addressing Global Intimate Partner Violence

This is the fourth part of a IH Blog series featured this summer, Intimate Partner Violence: Global Burden, Risk Factors and Outcomes.

Written by: Ewinka Romulus MPH and Dr. Heather de Vries McClintock PhD MSPH MSW

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) continues to be a serious global public health concern affecting millions of women (and in some cases, men). IPV refers to any harmful behavior within an intimate relationship that includes physical, psychological or sexual harm. Existing research suggests that different types of violence often coexist. For instance, we tend to see physical IPV often accompanied by sexual IPV and emotional abuse. While the extent of IPV varies across regions, higher prevalence exists amongst poorer countries and within communities of a lower socioeconomic level. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports a higher prevalence of IPV among African, Eastern Mediterranean, and South-East Asia Regions (approximately 37%). Whereas, lower rates of IPV are found among women in European and Western Pacific regions.

To date, different theories and models have been used to explain IPV behavior within communities. The most widely used model for understanding intimate partner violence is the Social-Ecological Model which considers the complex interaction between the individual, relationship, community and societal factors that may influence IPV. The societal level identifies broad societal factors including social and cultural norms, health, economic, educational, and social policies, which may create an environment where IPV is either encouraged or inhibited. Researchers are continuously examining the factors associated with IPV at these different levels and factors.

Relying on this conceptual framework interventions and strategies to address IPV globally require a multi-level approach. Accordingly, the World Health Organization’s Global Plan of Action to Address IPV 2016, calls for a multi-sectoral approach in which strategies for addressing IPV occur on all levels of the Social-Ecological Framework (e.g. individual, relationship, community, etc.). The goal of this plan is to strengthen the role of the health system in all settings and within a national multisectoral response to develop and implement policies and programmes, and provide services that promote and protect the health and well-being of everyone, and in particular, of women, girls and children who are subjected to, affected by or at risk of interpersonal violence. The plan calls for several actions that respond to and prevent gender-based violence against women and girls (VAWG). These include “creating an enabling legal and health policy environment that promotes gender equality and human rights, and empowers women and girls; provision of comprehensive and quality health-care services, particularly for sexual and reproductive health; evidence-informed prevention programmes promoting egalitarian and non-violent gender norms and relationships; improving evidence through collection of data on the many forms of VAWG and harmful practices that are often invisible in regular surveillance, health and crime statistics.”

Several countries, such as Uganda, India, and Nigeria have integrated multiple approaches encompassing the key principles mentioned above. For instance, in Uganda, an organization called Raising Voices works to prevent violence against both women and children. Raising Voices focuses on transforming attitudes and behaviors to promote gender equity in communities through a tool called SASA!. SASA! is a well-known intervention that has been adapted and implemented across regions, namely, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The SASA! intervention includes four steps: Start, Awareness, Support, and Action which focus on educating communities through a series of activities that address the importance of power and awareness in relationships. A recent evaluation of SASA! in Uganda demonstrated a significant reduction in the reported level of physical partner violence against women. In Haiti the MDG Achievement Fund  partnered with local women’s organization to establish health clinics and provide counsel and care for victims of violence. Local leaders are trained to educate and spread awareness about domestic violence within communities and to report a witnessed crime to local authorities. The MDG Achievement Fund partners with UN Women to create educational and socio-economic opportunities for vulnerable women to increase economic independence and autonomy. There has also been an increase in the number of One-Stop Crisis centers worldwide to help recent victims of violence.

Contextual factors shape the etiology and manifestation of IPV and thus effective interventions differ within communities and across countries. Programs that employ models that are specific to cultural norms while including community members have been found to be effective in addressing IPV. In addition, structural and systematic intervention strategies (economic, social, political, and physical) to reduce IPV or its impact may also be essential to reduce IPV’s global burden (Bourey C, 2015). An example, of an issue embedded in underlying structural and systemic inequities is that may be potentially modified to improve IPV is that of literacy.  Regions with lower literacy levels show a higher prevalence of IPV among women. One study conducted in Ethiopia (Deyessa, 2010) found illiterate women were more likely to justify the reasons for a man beating his wife, compared to literate women. The study also found that literate women with a literate spouse were least likely to have experienced physical violence compared to literate women with an illiterate spouse. Similar findings were reported in a study in India (Ackerson, 2008) in which women residing in neighborhoods with high literacy rates were were less likely to experience IPV. Literacy can also have an important impact on other indicators of well-being entwined with outcomes for IPV such as contraceptive knowledge and use. In our recent work we found that literacy was significantly associated with the utilization of modern contraceptives (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.166, 95% CI = 1.015, 1.340). Thus, interventions that seek to modify systemic and structural components that influence literacy may have important implications for IPV.

Intimate partner violence is a common problem worldwide that needs to be addressed incorporating contextual needs. The World Health Organization calls for a collaborative, coordinated and integrated response for addressing this significant public health issue. It is evident that interventions should be multi-sectoral and a comprehensive approach should aim to address IPV implications on individual, relationship, community and societal levels.

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 11.00.41 AM.pngEwinka Minerva Romulus, MPH is a recent graduate from Arcadia University’s MPH program. Her master’s thesis focused on the influence of literacy on contraceptive knowledge and use among women in Swaziland. Prior to her graduate career, she studied Bio-behavioral Health at the Pennsylvania State University where she gained an understanding of the interactions among biological, behavioral, psychological, sociocultural, and environmental variables that influence health. Ewinka gained interest in global health after observing the existing issues around poverty, health, and inequality in her own country – Haiti.  She is planning on continuing her studies at Drexel University in the fall of 2018 to obtain a certificate in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Her current interests are in women’s health, global health, and nutrition. Her global health experience includes traveling to Guatemala with Mayanza Organization to provide health education and health screenings to school-children. She is also involved in organizations in Haiti with a mission of eradicating many communicable diseases. During her free time, Ewinka enjoys reading, traveling, and learning to play the guitar.

McClintock.PictureDr. Heather F. de Vries McClintock is an IH Section Member and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, College of Health Sciences at Arcadia University. She earned her Master of Science in Public Health from the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. McClintock received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on health behavior and promotion. Her research broadly focuses on the prevention, treatment, and management of chronic disease and disability globally. Recent research aims to understand and reduce the burden of intimate partner violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to completing her doctorate she served as a Program Officer at the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and a Senior Project Manager in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania. At the University of Pennsylvania she led several research initiatives that involved improving patient compliance and access to quality healthcare services including the Spectrum of Depression in Later Life and Integrating Management for Depression and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Studies.

 

Outcomes of Global Intimate Partner Violence

This is the third part of a IH Blog series featured this summer, Intimate Partner Violence: Global Burden, Risk Factors and Outcomes.

Written by: Erica Hartmann MPH, MMS (c) and Dr. Heather de Vries McClintock PhD MSPH MSW

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological (or emotional) aggression by a current or former intimate partner (Violence Prevention, 2017). Consequences of intimate partner violence (IPV) can be immediate, long lasting, and invisible. The physical impact of  IPV includes broken bones, lost teeth, hearing damage, and vocal cord damage due to attempted strangulation (Garcia-Moreno C et al., 2005). The World Health Organization’s multi-country study showed that women who were ever abused by their partner were twice as likely to report poor health and physical and mental problems when compared to women who were never abused (Garcia-Moreno C et al., 2005). Diagnoses resulting from IPV include irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndromes, and asthma exacerbation (Crofford, 2007; Heise,Garcia Moreno, 2002). Additionally, violence during pregnancy is associated with miscarriage, late entry into prenatal care, stillbirth, premature labor, fetal injury, and low birthweight (Bailey, 2010; Garcia-Moreno C et al., 2005; Silverman, Decker, Reed, and Raj, 2006). IPV can have lasting, and often unseen consequences.

Intimate partner violence can be harmful to the victim and to the children in the home where violence is occuring. Studies from around the globe find that IPV is a leading predictor of child maltreatment (Hunter, et al., 2000; Family Violence Prevention Fund, 2006). Growing up in a home where the mother experienced violence is considered an adverse childhood experience, and is associated with greater likelihood of poor outcomes in later life such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide attempts (Felitti, 1998).

Intimate partner violence (IPV) has previously been linked with child mortality in countries including Bangladesh, the United States, India, Malawi, and Timor Leste (Hossain, Sumi, Haque, Bari, 2014; Mwale, 2004; Silverman et al., 2011; Taft, Powell, and Watson, 2015; Garoma, Fantahun,and Worku, 2012). A recent study using data from the Timor Leste’s 2013 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) showed that women who experienced physical violence were 30% more likely to experience child loss (the death of one or more children), and women who experienced combined forms of violence were 45% more likely to experience child loss when compared with women who had not experienced violence (Taft, Powell, and Watson, 2015).

We sought to uncover the relationship between intimate partner violence and child loss using the Togo demographic health survey (DHS) administered between 2013-2014. In addition, we investigated the effect of emotional violence which to our knowledge, has not been investigated in associated with child loss.  The Demographic Health survey is a nationally representative household survey that is administered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This survey provides a wide range of monitoring and impact evaluation indicators and is developed in collaboration with the surveyed country. The Togo 2013-2014 DHS survey was translated into 13 languages and was administered by 90 highly trained individuals after gaining privacy and consent of the participant. The DHS survey assessed lifetime victimization of physical, emotional, and sexual violence (yes/no), and child loss (difference between the number of childbirths and number of living children, 1 or more coded as yes/ 0 coded as no). Covariates assessed included age, education, marital status, wealth index, employment, justification of wife-beating, and urban/rural residence. Data were weighted and analyzed through a bivariate logistic regression adjusting for covariates using SPSS version 14.

In total, 4842 Togolese women completed the domestic violence module of the Demographic health survey. In all, 36.5% of women reported victimization of physical, sexual, or emotional IPV in their lifetime. Women who experienced any form of IPV were 1.415 times as likely to experience child loss when compared to women who never experienced IPV (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) =1.415, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.227,1.633). Women were significantly more likely to experience child loss if they experienced physical IPV (AOR=1.340, 95% CI = 1.135,1.582), sexual IPV (AOR=1.488, 95% CI = 162,1.905) or emotional IPV (AOR= 1.325, 95% CI = 1.143,1.536). Women who experienced combined forms of violence were at significantly increased odds of experiencing a child’s death when compared to women who never experienced violence (AOR=1.479, (95%CI = 1.231,1.778). We saw a significant association between all forms of intimate partner violence and child loss among this population of Togolese women. This finding indicates a need for child mortality interventions that address intimate partner violence to reduce Togo’s child mortality rate.

Addressing IPV requires strategies implemented at the individual, community, and policy levels. Screening for intimate partner violence during prenatal visits and providing social worker counseling to future mothers reduces recurrent episodes of IPV and improves childbirth outcomes (leading to higher birth weights and fewer premature births) (Kiely, Elmohandes, El-khorazaty, & Gantz, 2011). Data also indicates that policies including support programs for survivors such as shelters, housing programs, legal services, have been effective in reducing negative outcomes. The World Health Organization outlines strategies through which policy can most effectively reduce the burden of IPV suggesting that the healthcare and other sectors should have minimum standards for addressing this issue. These standards include establishing clear working protocols encompassing clear referral pathways for survivors of IPV (WHO Response to IPV, 2016). The degree to and nature in which countries follow these recommendations varies dramatically with some countries aggressively attempting to address the issue while others failing to even acknowledge its existence. The consequences of IPV are vast and impact people all over the world. Public health professionals are at the forefront of tackling this issue and will continue to play a critical role in reducing the global burden of IPV.

Please stay tuned for Part IV in this series: Interventions and Strategies for Addressing Global Intimate Partner Violence.

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Erica Hartmann, MMS (c), MMS (c) 2020 is a student at Arcadia University who hopes to prevent violence by serving as a physician assistant specializing in primary care in communities with limited access to healthcare. Erica worked under Dr. Heather McClintock to uncover links between IPV and child loss in Togo, and hopes to continue researching global violence prevention interventions after graduating from Arcadia.

McClintock.PictureDr. Heather F. de Vries McClintock is an IH Section Member and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, College of Health Sciences at Arcadia University. She earned her Master of Science in Public Health from the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. McClintock received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on health behavior and promotion. Her research broadly focuses on the prevention, treatment, and management of chronic disease and disability globally. Recent research aims to understand and reduce the burden of intimate partner violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to completing her doctorate she served as a Program Officer at the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and a Senior Project Manager in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania. At the University of Pennsylvania she led several research initiatives that involved improving patient compliance and access to quality healthcare services including the Spectrum of Depression in Later Life and Integrating Management for Depression and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Studies.

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