Prevention of intimate partner violence : community and healthcare workers´ perceptions in urban Tanzania

Abstract: Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) against women is public health and human rights concern. The studies forming this thesis seek to understand healthcare worker and community attitudes and perceptions about IPV; their role in support, care and prevention of IPV, and the feasibility of introducing routine screening for IPV among women attending healthcare. Methods: Four interrelated studies were conducted in Temeke District, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: 1) a content analysis of 16 in-depth interviews with healthcare workers about their experiences of meeting IPV clients, 2) a grounded theory analysis of seven focus group discussions that explore community perceptions, 3) a cross sectional study of 657 healthcare workers and students to understand their attitudes and perceptions about IPV and future roles in care and support, and 4) evaluation of a pilot intervention that introduces routine screening in an outpatient department. The pilot intervention included screening of 102 women, ten observations of healthcare worker interactions with women clients, three focus group discussions, and five narratives written by healthcare workers about their experiences with the screening tools. Results: Gender inequalities, attitudes, and poverty intersect in the explanation of IPV. Healthcare workers view low economic status among women, rigid gender norms, and stigma that influences women to stay in violent relationships. Alcohol abuse, multiple sexual partners and low levels of income among men were cited as triggers for IPV episodes. Between 20-67% of healthcare workers and students report meeting IPV clients at work. More than 9o% observed clients with unexplained feelings of sadness and/or loss of confidence. Resource and training limitations, heavy workloads and low salaries constrain services. A strong desire to make a difference in the care and support of IPV clients was present, but violence as a hidden agenda with a client resistance to disclosure was a challenge. The community study shows a transition in gender norms is making violence against women less acceptable. Conclusions and suggestions: Healthcare workers and the community strongly wish and are committed to support IPV prevention. Both groups understood the meaning, provocative factors and some IPV effects. This awareness contributes to their desire to be part of a change. At the central level, prevention of IPV should be on the governments’ policy agenda and should be prioritised. Education about gender-based violence must be incorporated into the curricula of healthcare workers. At community level, advocacy is necessary for changing harmful gender norms and measures to combat women’s poverty. Men should be engaged at all levels. Provision of information on the human rights perspectives of IPV should be strengthened and related to other types of violence.