PPLM’s Community Engagement program seeks to disrupt disparities, reduce stigma, and advance equity in communities where PPLM’s patients live and work.
Getting the Message Out
The Community Engagement program conducted local and statewide campaigns to raise awareness about the sexual and reproductive health care services available at PPLM’s four health centers in Massachusetts and via PPLM’s robust telehealth program. Specific messages focused on the importance of STI testing and treatment, HIV prevention, and sex education, each in the context of destigmatizing sexual and reproductive health care for teens and adults. When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, program staff actively reassured patients and providers that abortion remains legal in Massachusetts, and that PPLM stands ready to provide expert, personalized abortion care. Social media and advertising proved an especially powerful means of communication, reaching new and diverse populations and in multiple languages. By year’s end, virtual outreach had made a record-breaking two million contacts and booked nearly 3,000 telehealth appointments statewide.
Reaching New Populations
Southeastern Massachusetts has been known as an “abortion desert” because of the distance patients need to travel to reach the nearest abortion provider. Determined to make abortion care more accessible for people on the Cape, Islands, South Shore and South Coast, PPLM’s community outreach specialists connected 1,768 people to PPLM’s telehealth program, informed them about obtaining abortion pills by mail, and alerted patients to sources of financial assistance for transportation and lodging should they need to travel for care. People were apprised of PPLM’s other telehealth services, such as contraception prescriptions and STI testing kits, while a local PPLM staff member became a notary public able to certify required legal documents for patients seeking gender-affirming surgeries. Nearly 30 active partnerships with regional health care providers, women’s groups, fair housing agencies, food pantries, and other organizations committed to health and social equity accelerated the spread of information and deepened the program’s impact.
Cuidado. De Cualquier Manera.
As PPLM sought to understand and respond to communities’ health care needs, it worked to break down language barriers that stood in the way of providing the most timely, accurate information about sexual and reproductive health. In Greater Springfield, for example, where PPLM runs a busy health center, nearly 50 percent of the population is Spanish-speaking. PPLM worked throughout the year to strengthen bilingual resources for Spanish speakers through social media, events, workshops, and digital and printed materials. A team of Spanish-speaking PPLM staff and a national Planned Parenthood advisory group guided the program on how to adapt care-related English terminology into Spanish versions that considered varied dialects and cultural backgrounds.
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