Current iHEAL RCT


Building on findings and lessons learned from the original iHEAL and Reclaiming our Spirits, the iHEAL was further improved and is currently being tested in a randomized controlled trial with 280 women in Ontario, BC and New Brunswick.


Collectively, lessons from all of the previous studies (links to: Original iHEAL, Reclaiming our Spirits) were used to inform the current version of the iHEAL. Refinements made in the BC version to reduce social class and other biases improved the appropriateness and fit of iHEAL for all women and were brought forward into the current version of the intervention. Importantly, acknowledging that leaving is a process that occurs over time and that it is often difficult to define the point of “leaving”, and evidence that iHEAL is appropriate for women who may still be living with an abusive partner, we shifted the name from Intervention for Health Enhancement after leaving to Intervention for Health Enhancement and Living.

Funded as part of a $100 Million Federal investment in programs and services to address the needs of people affected by IPV in Canada, this current study builds on our previous work to establish stronger scientific evidence of the effectiveness of iHEAL using the most rigorous research design possible: a randomized controlled trial (RCT). We are testing whether a refined version of iHEAL improves the quality of life, mental and physical health, confidence and control of wComen who have, or are in the process of separating from an abusive partner and who live in selected rural and urban communities in Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick.

A community sample of 280 eligible women recruited from selected communities in Ontario, New Brunswick and BC are being assigned by chance (randomization) to either complete the iHEAL over a 6 month period (nurse visit group), or provided with information about local community services to help them seek support on their own (self-directed group) (Figure 2.2).

About the iHEAL Intervention

The iHEAL is a tailored health promotion program designed to support women who have separated or are in the process of separating from an abusive partner to improve their health and quality of life. It is delivered by a team of community health nurses working in partnership with women in one-on-one sessions over about 6 months, in the context of supports and services available locally. Some key features of the iHEAL:

  • It addresses a broad range of issues that affect women’s health and well-being, such as problematic health symptoms, safety, access to basic resources (i.e., housing, income, and food), social supports, and family dynamics.
  • It is designed to be tailored to both the individual woman’s priorities, needs and context, and to the community in which she lives
  • It is woman-led, with a strong focus on complementing and extending, rather than duplicating, existing services.
  • Nurses work with women on an individual basis in ~10-18 sessions over about 6 months, in the context of supports and services available locally
Ford-Gilboe, M., Varcoe, C., Dietrich, P., Mantler, T., Colquhoun, R., Wuest, J., … Perrin, N. (2017). Initial testing of the Intervention for Health Enhancement After Leaving (iHEAL): Feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy. Unpublished Manuscript under Review.

Varcoe, C., Ford-Gilboe, M., Browne, A. J., Perrin, N., Bungay, V, McKenzie, H., Smye, V., Price, R., Inyallie, J., Khan, K. & Dian Stout, M. (2019). The Efficacy of a Health Promotion Intervention for Indigenous Women: Reclaiming Our Spirits. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-31.

Wuest, J., Merritt‐Gray, M., Dubé, N., Hodgins, M. J., Malcolm, J., Majerovich, J. A., … Varcoe, C. (2015). The process, outcomes, and challenges of feasibility studies conducted in partnership with stakeholders: a health intervention for women survivors of intimate partner violence. Research in Nursing & Health, 38(1), 82–96.

Varcoe, C., Browne, A. J., Ford-Gilboe, M., Dion Stout, M., McKenzie, H. A., Price, R., & Merritt-Gray, M. (2017). Reclaiming Our Spirits: A health promotion intervention for Indigenous women who have experienced intimate partner violence. Research in Nursing & Health, 40(3), 237-254