Original Research

Health sector responses to intiate partner violence: A literature review

Kate Rees, Virginia Zweigenthal, Kate Joyner
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 6, No 1 | a712 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v6i1.712 | © 2014 Kate Rees, Virginia Zweigenthal, Kate Joyner | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 May 2014 | Published: 21 November 2014

About the author(s)

Kate Rees, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Virginia Zweigenthal, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Kate Joyner, Division of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a common and serious public health concern, particularly in South Africa, but it is not well managed in primary care.

Aim: This review aims to summarise the current state of knowledge regarding health sector-based interventions for IPV, their integration into health systems and services and the perspectives of service users and healthcare workers on IPV care, focusing on the South African context.

Method: PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO and Google Scholar were searched between
January 2012 and May 2014. All types of study design were included, critically appraised and summarised.

Results: Exposure to IPV leads to wide-ranging and serious health effects. There is suffiient evidence that intervening in IPV in primary care can improve outcomes. Women who have experienced IPV have described an appropriate response by healthcare providers to be non-judgmental, understanding and empathetic. IPV interventions that are complex, comprehensive and utilise systems-wide approaches have been most effective, but system- and
society-level barriers hamper implementation. Gender inequities should not be overlooked when responding to IPV.

Conclusion: Further evaluations of health sector responses to IPV are needed, in order to assist health services to determine the most appropriate models of care, how these can be integrated into current systems and how they can be supported in managing IPV. The need for this research should not prevent health services and healthcare providers from implementing IPV care, but rather should guide the development of rigorous contextually-appropriate evaluations.


Interpersonal violence; Intimate partner violence; Domestic violence; Spouse abuse; Mental health; Health services; Health systems


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