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“What about Her?” offers new insights for health providers and social service stakeholders

Washington, DC — Today, as the Biden-Harris administration announced “bold and ambitious steps to root out inequity,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America published “What about Her? — Assessing Social Determinants of Health Among Women of Reproductive Age,” an issue brief focused on the unique ways that women of reproductive age are affected by the social determinants of health (SDOH), those conditions of the environments in which people live, play, work, and age that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.

The brief’s key finding is that women of reproductive age report being very or somewhat comfortable discussing their SDOH-related needs within the health care setting, including with a primary care physician (PCP), a general practitioner, or a Planned Parenthood provider. In fact, women are just as comfortable discussing SDOH-related needs with a Planned Parenthood provider as discussing needs with a PCP or other general health care provider.

Statement from Sydney Etheredge, director of the Health Care Investment Program,  Planned Parenthood Federation of America

This issue brief provides invaluable and actionable insights for stakeholders to meaningfully address the SDOH-related needs of women of reproductive age. It’s important to understand that women of reproductive age trust their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) provider not just for basic care, but also for needs including support with finances, finding employment or childcare, accessing transportation, and identifying housing. That’s why it is imperative for SRH providers to be full partners with other health care and social service stakeholders.


Notably, the “What About Her?” brief found that two populations report greater comfort in discussing their SDOH-related needs with a Planned Parenthood provider:

  • Women of color, as compared to white women; and
     
  • Women with lower annual incomes, as compared to women with higher annual incomes. This is particularly true among women of reproductive age with annual incomes less than $25,000 per year.

These findings underscore the need for health care stakeholders, especially those working on SDOH-related needs, to actively engage sexual and reproductive health care (SRH) providers like Planned Parenthood. This is particularly true of health care stakeholders working with communities of color and lower income communities.

“If we really want to move the needle on SDOH-related needs, then we must meet women of color where they are. That means making sure SRH providers like Planned Parenthood are full partners with health care stakeholders and the network of support service providers,” said Tekisha Dwan Everette, a health equity and policy expert and an advisor to Planned Parenthood.

Today’s issue brief recommends that meaningful investments be made to expand the capacity of frontline sexual and reproductive health care providers to assess and address SDOH-related needs. These are the providers not only trusted by women of reproductive age, but that also serve as their first and most frequent contact with the health care system.

Other important findings highlighted in the brief are:

  • More than two-thirds of women of reproductive age say it is very or somewhat hard to pay for the very basics, such as food, medical care, housing, and heating.
     
  • While the types of social needs among women of reproductive age varies, the most commonly reported areas of need for assistance are:
    • Having enough food for themselves or their family (23 percent);
    • Utilities (17 percent);
    • Transportation (17 percent);
    • Employment or help finding a job (15 percent);
    • Childcare (12 percent); and
    • Housing/having a steady place to live (8 percent).
       
  • Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic women of reproductive age are more likely to report needing SDOH-related support in many areas:
    • Black women of reproductive age report the highest need for SDOH support in all surveyed areas except for intimate partner violence (IPV), where non-Hispanic white women report the highest rate of need for support.
    • Asian/Pacific Islander women of reproductive age report lower need for support with childcare and utilities, and are more likely than other women of color to report support needs related to IPV.

The issue brief makes two important policy recommendations to better center the needs of women of reproductive age:

  • Reforming care delivery in a way that explicitly addresses the SDOH-related needs of women of reproductive age: Community-clinical partnerships must be a standard of care delivery, and emerging models of care must invest in and create pathways for frontline providers, like Planned Parenthood, to support care coordination efforts.
     
  • Aligning payment structures to account for SDOH: Providers and community partners must have access to the resources required to appropriately address SDOH-related needs — this requires both investment in community partners, as well as appropriate reimbursement for providers.

The issue brief is based on one of the first surveys to look specifically at the SDOH-related needs of women of reproductive age. The survey was conducted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The sample size was 1627 women of reproductive age (18-44 years old), living at or below 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL). The sample was split evenly among Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and white respondents.

Download the “What about Her? — Assessing Social Determinants of Health Among Women of Reproductive Age

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Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation's largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives