Partnership with JPS results in new interpersonal violence training for health providers

Tessa Team Zoom MeetingA University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth program launched in 2015 to support Tarrant County victims of intimate partner violence has now developed free, online, self-guided health provider training that addresses the intersection of IPV and sexual health, specifically HIV. The program operates in collaboration with JPS Health Network, other local health providers and community service agencies,  

Two training modules were developed by JPS through HSC’s TESSA (Technology Enhanced Screening and Assistance) program, providing continuing education credits for several professions, including public health, social work, medicine, nursing and mental health. The TESSA program has been led by Dr. Emily Spence, HSC associate professor and School of Public Health associate dean for community engagement and health equity, along with HSC associate professor Dr. Erika Thompson and Jessica Grace, senior program manager.  

IPV, also referred to as domestic violence, occurs when a person purposely causes or threatens harm to his or her partner or spouse. Tactics can be physical, sexual, financial, verbal or emotional in nature. IPV can lead to serious health conditions, including sexually transmitted infections like HIV.  

 “Sexual health risks and interpersonal violence are very closely related,” Spence said. “This new TESSA training guides providers on ways to identify the risk indicators and help their patients access the care needed to be safe and healthy.” 

JPS partners worked with the TESSA team and HSC’s Division of Academic Innovation to create and deliver the training modules in an easily accessible online format. Academic Innovation team members involved in this project were Ericka Harden-Dews, continuing education and assessment director, and Brenda Wilson, senior instructional designer.

 JPS team members on this project included Afiba Manza-A. Agovi, PhD; Mary Ann Contreras, RN; and Ashley Lamar, MPH, CPH, CHES. Agovi manages the JPS HIV research program and is a research scientist and assistant professor at the JPS Center for Epidemiology & Healthcare Delivery Research. Contreras serves as injury and violence prevention manager for JPS Network Trauma Services, and Lamar is a JPS trauma injury prevention specialist. Lamar is a graduate of the HSC School of Public Health who connected with Contreras through her MPH internship in 2018.   

“This training aligns with national and local goals to reduce the incidence of HIV and IPV,” Agovi explained. “The program aims to increase health professionals’ awareness of how HIV and IPV are interconnected and is an important step to improving routine screening for both.” 

The implications for patients and providers, Contreras added, are profound.  

“Patients and providers gain trust and build relationships together,” she said. “This is especially important to the patients who are often isolated. The training modules are incredibly useful and relatable to providers, especially those new to the idea of screening for IPV/HIV.” 

The screening also provides the participant an opportunity for introspection, Contreras noted, and a chance to contemplate behavioral changes. 

“The work of human health care delivery is a shared one,” she said. “The provider, researcher, educator, nurse, assistant, translator, data professional, health care ally and patients alike all have a piece to contribute to the success of one another. Working together with this exceptional team has improved the quality of many lives. The training has modeled ways of providing a safe space for the vulnerable populations we all serve.” 

TESSA was launched through national funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. Information researchers learned through the grant’s early stages helped bring about this final piece of the project to support providers in serving their patients. 

“We truly value our partnership with JPS and this opportunity to connect with providers across a variety of disciplines,” Spence said. “Although funding for this program closes at the end of August 2022, the impact of this work — what we have all learned and how this information has informed our efforts for care and support of IPV patients in the future — is significant.”  

The training modules created through TESSA will remain accessible and free for the next year.

“I think everyone involved has benefitted from this project,” Spence added. “HSC faculty increased their knowledge of sexual health risks and IPV. Collaborations with organizations like JPS added the provider perspective, and interviews with those in the community who access their services all led us to this point.”  

To Contreras and others, TESSA represents a true “village approach,” highlighting the multidisciplinary strengths of the community and the advantages of working together. 


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