August 29, 2023

New Canada Research Chair aims to advance a health systems approach to family violence response and prevention

Health policy and systems researcher Stephanie Montesanti is among the newly named Canada Research Chairs at the U of A.

As the newly named Canada Research Chair in Health System Integration, Stephanie Montesanti is set to design, deliver and evaluate models of care for family violence service delivery within primary health care (PHC) settings. 

Family violence is a serious public health issue in Alberta, which consistently has the third-highest rate of domestic violence reported to police among Canadian provinces. Alberta also has the second-highest rate of self-reported spousal violence in the country. 

Indigenous women are disproportionately affected by family violence in Canada and face additional barriers to help-seeking.

Montesanti, a health policy and systems researcher in the School of Public Health and WCHRI member, is advancing critical actions towards integrated health system responses for family violence within PHC. 

“Family physicians and other healthcare providers play a vital role in early detection and prevention of family violence and facilitating access to specialist care and support,” says Montesanti. “However, implementation of family violence responses in PHC practices has been slow across the globe.”

Women and children account for two-thirds of all individuals affected by family violence in Canada, according to Statistics Canada, and exposure to family violence in children can result in social, behavioural, emotional and cognitive problems. 

Pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable period for family violence because of the physical, emotional, social and economic changes that happen to women and families.

“This issue has devastating consequences not only for the women and children involved but also for communities and the healthcare system,” says Montesanti. “Family violence results in increased use of health services by all patient groups affected by violence – including inpatient hospitalization, primary and specialty care, and mental healthcare.”

This award will expand Montesanti’s research program, which aims to advance integrated health and social care services in the community centred on the health and well-being needs of individuals, and also strengthen her community and cross-sector partnerships with decision-makers and health system leaders.

Stephanie Montesanti’s research is supported in part by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation through WCHRI.