February 2021: Power Updates Edition
There are plenty of articles, publications, and stories published every month. In an effort to help you distinguish fact from fiction, save time in your already busy day, and share news you may not have otherwise seen, here are nine stories from the last month we thought you might find interesting:
With more than a decade of data from the National Survey of Family Growth, researchers were able to estimate differences in the use of, access to, and counseling around emergency contraception (EC) in urban vs rural settings. They found that 10% of rural and 19% of urban women who had ever had sex reported using EC pills. In both populations the number of who reported use increased dramatically between 2008 and 2015. Both populations also were more likely to have gotten EC without a prescription, however, rural women were less likely to have received counseling around EC than their urban peers.
Adam Sonfield of the Guttmacher Institute argues in this article that there are many steps the Biden-Harris administration could take to close gaps in comprehensive insurance coverage of contraceptive methods, services, and counseling. After laying out the current state of contraceptive coverage and defining the meaning of comprehensive coverage, Sonfield makes recommendations for both the administration and Congress, including following the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice.
Pregnancy and Birth
This opinion piece lays out the significance of the predicted decline in birth rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how the novel coronavirus is hurting some populations more than others. In particular, the author notes that the pandemic affects people of color more than their white counterparts and women more than men. The commentary advocates for state and federal policies that support the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child.
Sexual and Reproductive Health
Newly published data from the CDC estimates that in 2018 one in five people in the United States contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI). This totals nearly 68 million cases and includes 26 million people who acquired an STI in 2018. In a series of published resources, the CDC highlights the incidence, prevalence, and cost of STIs in narrative and graphic form.
The authors of this commentary lay out eight lessons learned from the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- COVID-19 hits communities of color hardest, exposing and exacerbating health inequities caused by systemic racism.
- Women experience the most devastation social, economic, and mental health tolls during COVID-19.
- Virulent pathogens find and exacerbate cracks in our public health and health care systems.
- COVID-19 has become a pretext to limit access to sexual and reproductive health care.
- COVID-19 has exposed and deepened fault lines in maternity care: over-medicalization, discrimination, lack of workforce diversity, underutilization of collaborative tea approaches, and lack of post-delivery follow-up.
- The pandemic adds impetus to much-needed Medicaid policy reforms that can have a lasting positive effect on maternal health.
- Social and health policy changes, heretofore deemed infeasible, are possible under pandemic threat.
- Finally, an overarching COVID-19 lesson: we are all inextricably connected.
This pilot study found that a self-study website is a viable way to teach sex education among college-age students and OBGYN resident physicians. The curriculum covered anatomy, physiology, sexuality, gender identify, relationship health, birth control, and STI prevention. Though the study only had 24 participants, the researchers feel that further work to test the tool among young people may also prove its viability.
Written by two OBGYNs at The University of Chicago, this piece argues for patient-centered reproductive health care and reminds providers to remain compassionate about the patient experience and aware of the invisible struggles many face to obtain access to reproductive health care.
Leah H. Keller of the Guttmacher Institute argues in this article that Congress and the Biden-Harris administration can and should take steps to ensure that young people receive the high-quality sexual and reproductive health education and access to sexual and reproductive health services that they deserve. Keller notes that while comprehensive sex education programs are the gold standard, many students across the country receive abstinence-only sex education. Keller lists nearly 20 recommendations across several areas that the administration and Congress could take to improve adolescent sex ed.
This study uses data from 39 states to estimate the impact state-level sex education programs have on young people’s sexual activity and birth control use. It found that those states that mandate some form of sexual health education have lower rates of adolescent sexual activity and higher rates of birth control use than those that do not. Conversely, among states that require abstinence-only health education; there are higher rates of adolescent sexual activity and lower rates of birth control use.