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 Reproductive Life Planning Tools: Stories from EWSE Pilot Sites

By Erin K. McClain, MA, MPH
Research Associate, University of North Carolina Center for Maternal & Infant Health

Every Woman Southeast is a coalition of leaders in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, who are building multistate, multilayered partnerships to improve the health of women and infants in the southeast. Through our work together, we seek to foster leadership and resource sharing, stimulate new ideas, develop innovative partnerships, and promote effective programs and policies for moving the women’s health agenda forward in our region. With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Every Woman Southeast (EWSE) has funded eight pilot projects that work with traditional and non-traditional partners to improve women’s and men’s capacity to plan childbearing and improve preconception and interconception health using a life course approach.

The EWSE pilot projects have taken a variety of approaches to improving preconception/interconception health for the young women and men in their communities. Using a peer advocacy and education approach, the Cradle Me 3 project at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, NC, and the Peer Education for the Soul project of Duval County Health Department in Jacksonville, FL, are reaching out directly to 18 to 24 year old women and men. NCCU has developed a team of preconception peer educators who are working directly with students to introduce reproductive life planning and link students to available preconception services. NCCU also is working with professors of Nursing, Public Health, and Health Education to integrate the life course approach and reproductive life planning into their courses, including the required health class that almost all students complete before graduation. Duval County Health Department is partnering with churches to reach young adults in their communities through peer education and hold intergenerational conversations about critical preconception health topics.

The pilots in South Carolina and Louisiana have a peer education approach, but also are partnering with local mass media to communicate information about preconception/interconception health and services available, especially for vulnerable populations. Health Start New Orleans has partnered with Bounce TV to produce public service announcements focused on reproductive life planning, as well as an accompanying website. The project also worked with Health Start case managers to develop an easy-to-use reproductive life planning tool that is available to clients and the larger community. The PASOs program in South Carolina is working with two Spanish-language radio stations that have donated time for PASOs promotores, or lay health educators, to present a monthly, hour-long radio program on preconception health topics where listeners can call-in and ask questions, as well as be linked to available services.

Community linkages are a strong component of several of the other pilot projects. In Tennessee, Choices: Memphis Center for Reproductive Health has changed the way they provide post-termination care to include in-depth reproductive life planning, not just contraceptive counseling, as well as referrals to other services and supports available in the community. The Barren River Health District in Kentucky has worked with BabyNet – a network of mothers and providers committed to improving maternal and child health – as well as the school system to introduce the life course approach in the community, make information about reproductive life planning and preconception health available, and link the community to health and other services. In Mississippi, Delta Health Partners is working with organizations in the community who interact with young men, including schools, churches, the sheriff’s department, and the juvenile justice system, to educate them about the preconception health and reproductive life planning needs of these young men and how to provide or link them to appropriate services.

The EWSE pilot project in Miami, FL, has taken a somewhat different approach. The Urban Health Partnerships Transportation Access Throughout the Life Course project is investigating the multi-model transportation options for reproductive life planning and preconception care in Miami. The results of this assessment will be shared with partners in transportation, urban planning, and the health sector to inform them of the community needs and improve community access to these essential services.

For more information about Every Woman Southeast, our state teams, and our pilot projects, please contact Erin McClain or see EveryWomanSoutheast.org.