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Media release: New program partners Dalhousie researcher and IWK Health to tackle violence against women

Posted by Communications and Marketing on May 14, 2024 in News

Dalhousie University community health researcher Dr. Alexa Yakubovich is addressing Nova Scotia’s high rate of violence against women by embedding with IWK Health. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Health System Impact (HSI) program, the new partnership will allow Dr. Yakubovich to work directly with care programs most likely to come in contact with women experiencing intimate partner violence and develop processes for interventions with the potential to save lives.

“This partnership with IWK Health will help ensure women experiencing intimate partner violence in Nova Scotia receive the care they need,” says Dr. Alice Aiken, Dalhousie’s vice president, research and innovation. “Dr. Yakubovich’s work is yet another excellent example of how Dalhousie researchers are pursing work that has a direct and positive impact on the lives of people in the province.”

The researcher’s initial goal is to understand what initiatives to support victims are currently in place through IWK Health and other organizations in order to link them and maximize their impact. She is also developing processes to capture reported violence safely and privately on health records. She says this will help reveal the burden of the problem within the health system, which programs are most likely to see patients experiencing violence, and how to better connect patients with available supports. 

In tandem with her focus on data collection and process mapping, she is working with IWK Health and other partners to improve interventions.

“This includes healthcare provider training and the establishment of screening and referral interventions, so patients are asked questions and providers know what to do when they get responses,” says Dr. Yakubovich. “They need to know how to connect patients to available supports within the health system, including sexual assault nurse examiners trained to respond to domestic and sexualized violence.”

According to Statistics Canada, 44 per cent of women who have had an intimate partner relationship report experiencing abuse. Nova Scotian women report a higher rate of victimization from intimate partner violence than women living in Canada’s other provinces.

"Helping Nova Scotians experiencing intimate partner violence is critical. This partnership between CIHR, IWK Health, the IWK Foundation, and Dalhousie University to support Dr. Yakubovich is a great example of science being put to work for the public," says Dr. Frank MacMaster, vice president, research and innovation at IWK Health.

To demonstrate stark clarity on what can result from unaddressed intimate partner violence, Dr. Yakubovich details the example of the 2020 mass shooting in Portapique, Nova Scotia which ended in the deaths of 22 people and began with the shooter assaulting his common-law wife.                                        

“The mass shooting provides an example of a situation where there was a history of intimate partner violence. There was contact with different social, health service, and justice systems and, unfortunately, there were gaps in the response,” says Dr. Yakubovich. “But out of the mass shooting, there have been recommendations made provincially around how to strengthen the response to violence against women. This has led to a lot more space in terms of what we can do with research, policy, and practice.”

Dr. Yakubovich says health providers cannot be faulted for not having the risk of intimate partner violence top of mind when caring for patients. Their jobs are intensely busy and focused on addressing specific needs. She says the key is to help them notice the signs of abuse and catch it by creating processes to routinely inquire about the subject. Further, she says care providers need to be equipped with training, information, and tools to assist victims and connect them with available support and services.

“Being immersed within the IWK and establishing this formal partnership facilitates the work that is going to be needed to get programs and providers on board with what is going to be a bit of a sea change,” said Dr. Yakubovich. “It gives us more capacity to work directly with providers in their own environment and get their buy-in than if we were coming to them as outsiders.”

Learn via Dal News:


Media contact:

Andrew Riley
Senior manager, research and innovation communications
Dalhousie University


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