Sexual and reproductive health

Breaking the cycle of violence against women: health-based interventions

For the past fifteen years, WHO has played a key role in the field of gender-based violence (GBV), generating global evidence on the prevalence, risk factors and health outcomes of GBV, and developing evidenced-based guidance and tools for prevention and response. However, much remains to be done to tackle GBV in its various forms, and particular attention is needed around the time of pregnancy.

Photo of the participants to the meeting on intimate partner violence

For the purpose of developing strategies to improve interventions in health settings to reduce intimate partner violence, including among pregnant women, the Department of Reproductive Health and Research convened a meeting from 14 to 16 November 2012 that brought together over 20 researchers and practitioners from 14 countries to build on the lessons learned in implementing and testing such interventions in various countries.

Topics covered during the meeting:

  • theoretical models underpinning intervention research on violence against women
  • practical strategies implemented
  • lessons learned from formative research and randomised-controlled trials around the world

Sharing lessons from their research, participants aimed to reach agreement on key components of interventions to reduce violence, common outcome measurement, and research instruments.

Mindful of competing demands and lack of resources, the group highlighted key challenges in this area, for example, how to demonstrate the positive effect on children of interventions delivered to pregnant women, training of health care providers in intervention delivery, and providing the ideal dosage needed to effect change. The group also discussed ethical issues specific to research on violence towards pregnant women.

Message on a flip chart : translates evidence-based methods into real change at community level


The meeting concluded with a number of practical and concrete action plans. These include: the development of a ‘Researchers’ Handbook for Intervention Research on Violence Against Women’ and the development of a Network of Researchers on Violence against Women that will facilitate the sharing of instruments, protocols and intervention descriptions, as well as ongoing communication among researchers. In addition, the consensus around outcome measurement and instruments will enable meta-analysis to be carried out, offering for the first time, the potential to report evidence from many countries and across many settings for better advocacy and to influence policy and behaviour change.