Helping Patients With Reproductive Health Care in Primary Care Settings
By BETH HARPAZ
Most patients and physicians think it’s a good idea to offer reproductive health care in primary health care settings, according to research from CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy (SPH). But there are distinct preferences when it comes to how providers initiate conversations related to contraception and pregnancy.
“Interestingly in our studies, both primary care physicians and patients preferred to be asked an open-ended, service-oriented question, ‘Can I help you with any reproductive health services today?’ over one focused on pregnancy alone,” said Professor Heidi Jones, one of the studies’ co-authors along with Professors Meredith Manze and Diana Romero and Associate Dean Lynn Roberts.
Their four studies, published in three journals, looked at the expansion of reproductive health care services in primary health care settings. This expansion is in response to ongoing cutbacks and restrictions on government-funded family planning programs around the country.
A study of 443 primary care physicians in New York published in the journal Contraception found that 88% support the idea of routinely asking patients about pregnancy intentions in primary health care visits. Almost half of the doctors surveyed said they’re already providing reproductive health care, but doctors in some specialties said they needed more training.
Another study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine echoed that takeaway, finding that more family medicine physicians offer reproductive health services than do internal medicine physicians and that internal medicine specialists are among those who would like more training on offering reproductive health services.
A study in the journal Contraception surveying 1,000 patients in federally funded health centers found that most of the patients support the idea of offering services related to reproductive health, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases in those settings.
A study in the journal Family Medicine asked 39 women in New York State in focus groups and interviews to evaluate various approaches to conversations about contraception and pregnancy in primary health care settings. “Participants had the most positive response to the proposed question ‘Can I help you with any reproductive health services today, such as birth control or planning for a healthy pregnancy?’ based on its open-endedness, inclusiveness, and promotion of reproductive autonomy,” the authors wrote.
One respondent in that study liked the idea of contraception offered by a primary care provider, saying: “I probably don’t need to go to a specialist for just routine stuff like birth control.” Another said: “I appreciate someone who is going to be nonjudgmental and also give me all options.”