“Play it Safe, Rated E for Everyone”. These are the words that are listed on a poster below the container of condoms that sits in both of our patient bathrooms. In January, I partnered with NHC Pittsburgh member Gigi, who is placed at Allegheny County Health Department HIV/STD program, to bring condoms to Shadyside Family Health Center. Each month we receive roughly 1,000 condoms to be distributed in patient bathrooms and in “to go baggies” that are passed out by residents, nurses and staff members. This partnership has proven to be extremely needed as the condoms have been consistently taken by our patients weekly. I have had multiple moms tell me how nice it is that we now have condoms in the office, as it is their chosen form of contraception. Because condoms are the only type of contraception that protects against STIs, HIV, and pregnancy, I am hoping that eliminating barriers to accessing condoms will reduce the rates of STI/HIV and unintended pregnancy.
Another partnership that I fostered is with Lizzet, an NHC member placed at Women for a Health Environment (WHE), to help provide water filters for our moms and families. Recently, a family came into the office for their babies well child visit and the 15 month olds lead screening came back positive. This is a family that I know and have met with every time they’ve come in for an appointment. I informed them that I would connect with WHE to provide them a filter. The family has always been very difficult to reach and was not answering phone calls or letter attempts and a few months had passed at this point. They came back in to the office for their babies 18 month visit this past week and I was so excited to see that they were on the schedule. During their appointment I was able to assist them with learning about the harmful risks of lead exposure and how to use their new water filter. They were so excited to receive the filter and it was a true testament to see the power of providing a family with an otherwise unattainable resource. One of the goals for the rest of the year is to have a large supply of water filters in the office to add sustainability to this initiative.
In addition to these two new initiatives, our Centering pregnancy classes started up again in January. Centering Pregnancy is group prenatal care that follows the recommended schedule of 10 prenatal visits, but each visit is two hours long - giving women 8x more time with their provider than a regular doctor’s appointment. Moms engage in their care by taking their own weight and blood pressure and recording their own health data with private time with their provider for a belly check. Our Centering Pregnancy brings roughly 6-8 women all due at the same time together for their care. Providing care in this way allows moms and providers to relax and get to know each other on a much deeper and meaningful level. Members of the group form lasting friendships and are connected in ways not possible in traditional care. Our group, which is comprised of women of different ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds have seen these differences diminish in importance as they share the common experience of pregnancy, birth, and family care. It has truly been a beautiful experience to be a part of and I undoubtedly see the impact of building such a warm, safe, and judgment free space for pregnant moms.
Overall, these three new initiatives are true testaments to the power of connections and tapping into established networks to reduce barriers to accessing preventative health services. Simple things like obtaining free and easily accessible condoms, clean water, and more time for doctors to listen and patients to feel empowered really go a long way.
This post was written by NPHC member Dana Thomas.
Dana serves at UPMC Shadyside Family Health Center as a Care Coordinator.