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Assessing women’s experiences with health care

Last edited: February 25, 2011

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Strengthening the response of the health sector to gender-based violence requires an understanding of women’s experiences accessing or attempting to access health services. This includes measures taken to understand and address the barriers and challenges women experiencing violence face when seeking care. This is most feasible through interviews with women as they are leaving the health care institution. It may be difficult for women to feel comfortable saying something critical about the services they have received while they are on the premises. If possible, additional interviews and focus group discussions with women identified through other social services outside of the health care setting might be used to assess access to health service and quality of care.


Methods that can be used include:

  • Qualitative, participatory methods with women accessing or attempting to access health services including focus group discussions, role plays, open-ended stories, mapping, Venn diagrams [link to descriptions of these methods]
  • Client exit interviews; and
  • Interviews with women unable to access health services to determine the barriers these women face and to provide a non-health care setting for women to speak more freely about their experience


Illustrative Tools:

In Her Shoes methodology (Washington Coalition on Domestic Violence). This methodology was developed by and adapted for Latin America to train and sensitize service providers on the barriers women living with violence face. It has also been adapted for Latin America in Spanish by the InterCambios Alliance.

Client Exit Survey Questionnaire (International Planned Parenthood Federation/ Western Hemisphere Region). This is a standard survey instrument for gathering information about clients’ opinions of the services they have received and is primarily designed for health services that have implemented a routine screening policy. This questionnaire contains mostly closed-ended questions about the services. It asks women whether they were asked about gender-based violence and about how they felt answering those questions; it does not ask women to disclose whether or not they have experienced violence. Available in English and Spanish.

Using Mystery Clients: A Guide to Using Mystery Clients for Evaluation Input (Pathfinder, 2006).  Available in English.

Positive Women Monitoring Change: A Monitoring Tool on Access to Care, Treatment and Support, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Violence against Women Created by and for HIV Positive Women (International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, 2008).  Available in English.