Equitable Access to Contraception Matters

It’s World Contraception Day, an annual campaign devoted to lifting up the important role that equitable access to contraception plays in improving people’s health, their lives, and their futures. At Upstream USA, we celebrate this day every year because we believe every person deserves access to the contraceptive methods that work best for them.

This day is also an opportunity to celebrate the many healthcare providers who are breaking down barriers to contraceptive care, including those we are grateful to call Upstream partners.
Upstream USA is built around partnership, and so is health care. There’s a journey and a team of people behind every single prescription written, and today we want to express gratitude for the people and places who work to make sure we can deliver affordable, convenient, patient-centered contraceptive services across the country.

What does comprehensive contraceptive care mean to us?

It’s about learning from the patient. Upstream partner Emily Godfrey, MD, MPH, is a Professor of Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Washington, where she practices full-spectrum family medicine. She says, “As a primary care physician, I can counsel my patients about every option in the context of their lives, in the context of their cultural background and their community. I can be available for them when questions arise or if they come back a few months later saying they didn’t like the method and they’d like to try something else.”

It’s about champions. Cone Health is an expansive, not-for-profit healthcare network with nearly 150 locations across North Carolina, including hospitals, medical centers and urgent care centers. At Cone Health, our executive sponsor and project champion — Executive Director Walidah Karim-Rhoades, DNP, RN, CNM — helped us quickly build connections within a large organization, increasing our reach in training Cone’s staff and providers.

It’s about training and knowledge sharing. Our partner Guilford County Health Department in North Carolina is a two site Health Department located in the central part of the state. Working with Upstream, Guilford County is expanding reproductive health screening to Primary Care, Refugee and STI Clinics to create a whole patient approach to contraceptive care and create dialogue around contraceptive goals -referring patients to its Family Planning Clinics for their birth control needs.

It’s about listening. Melissa Partridge, a Medical Assistant at Upstream partner Family Health Center of Worcester, Inc., says “We’re seeing a lot of people who are new to the clinic, which often means they’re new to the city or new to the country, maybe they’ve been out of primary care for a while. This is their door into getting primary care. So I might talk to them about their migraines while I’m taking out their IUD and sort of take care of the other pieces of what they need. We make sure they get their vaccines. Or we find out that they have food insecurity and we connect them with resources. It’s really whole person care. It’s just that birth control is the way in.”

It’s about treating the whole patient. At VICTA, an outpatient substance abuse recovery and treatment center in Providence, RI, “We’ve developed a truly integrated model here where all of the providers are able to work both in addiction medicine and quote unquote physical medicine” says Lisa Peterson, COO of VICTA. VICTA offers same day access to contraception and dedicates one day each week to reproductive care. “Every time I hear that someone got the contraceptive care that they were looking for, that’s what keeps me going. We’re really proud of what we’re doing here,” says Peterson.

And above all, it’s about people. In order to help advance Cambridge Health Alliance’s system-wide goals of equity and inclusion, we closely collaborated to implement a global screening approach to address birth control needs of all genders across primary care sites, and, to ensure Upstream’s patient-centered education materials were available in all of the major languages of CHA’s diverse patient population. These are just two of the many ways CHA is working towards equity and contraceptive access for all.

We are so grateful to our hundreds of partners working to deliver care every day. But the work of ensuring all people have access to the full range of contraceptive services is challenging.

Upstream is here to stand with you and keep pushing to expand access to patient-centered contraceptive care, no matter where you live and work.

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