May 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 10 stories from the last month we thought you might find interesting:
In rural areas primary care providers are taking over contraceptive counseling for many people as a result of a lack of OBGYNs. This study interviewed providers in rural South Carolina to better understand their ability to provide access to the full range of contraceptive methods. Overall providers saw either very few patients a year who received contraceptive counseling or they saw hundreds. Medicaid was the dominant insurance of patients living in areas with low-to-middle range incomes. In general, however, few patients over age 25 received contraceptive counseling. Providers reported that this is because patients may desire a form of birth control, such as an IUD, which isn’t available at their practice or because by that age patients be considering pregnancy.
This article asks, “Does access to the full range of contraceptive methods increase young women’s educational attainment?” Using data representative of the country’s population, it answers, yes, ensuring access to birth control decreases the number of women without a high school diploma by 14% overall.
Following a survey, data show that many family planning providers in the US have had a positive experience using telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite 78% reporting being new to using telehealth. Eighty percent strongly believed that telehealth is an effective way to perform contraceptive counseling though some providers did express concern that increasing use of telehealth may widen disparities for patients with less access to technology.
Expanding on previous research on the use of telehealth to improve contraceptive care, this study evaluated nearly 170 patients in New York City who had a virtual visit with a health care provider specifically for contraceptive counseling. Nearly 90% of both those surveyed and those who took part in in-depth interviews reported feeling ‘very satisfied’ with their telehealth visit. Of those interviewed, many spoke about the convenience of telehealth in that they did not have to travel to or wait for an appointment and that virtual visits were easier to schedule around other commitments such as child care.
Pregnancy and Birth
This annual report breaks down trends across the 3.75 million births that occurred in the United States in 2019. Highlights include:
- This is the fifth year in a row where the number of overall births has declined.
- The fertility rate is 58.3 births per 1,000 females: a record low.
- Birth rates decreased by 4% for females age 15–19, by 7% for those age 15-17, and by 4% for those age 18-19. Those age 20-29 saw a 2% decrease.
- Birth rates increased slightly by 1% for females age 35–44 and by 2% for those age 40-44.
The National Survey of Family Growth is a pivotal annual survey that counts the total number of births in the US. However, this study shows that only 40% of abortions that occurred in the five calendar years preceding respondents’ interviews are recorded, which means that one in ten pregnancies are not reported. The underreporting of abortions has impacts not just on future research around abortion, but also on research into improving pregnancy-related health outcomes such as maternal and child health.
Sexual and Reproductive Health
This literature review synthesized 12 articles around sexual and reproductive mobile health interventions specifically for Black and Latina women. Because these two groups are more likely to face care barriers that result in disparities, it’s incredibly important that health interventions are designed in a culturally sensitive manner. The review found that keeping users engaged and using the platform over time was a challenge faced by all studies. The authors suggest that based on their review, putting time into developing and tailoring mHealth interventions to specific population groups could positively impact this problem.
This editorial advocates for continued support around the implementation of evidence-based comprehensive sex education in schools. The authors cite a recent article from the Journal of Adolescent Health that showcases an innovative school-based sex ed curriculum called FLASH, which has been shown to have positive impacts on psychosocial outcomes without impacting sexuality activity or contraceptive behavior.
Using data from the 2006-2010, 2011-2015, and 2015-2019 National Surveys of Family Growth researchers found that in the most recent study period 54% of females and 52% of male adolescents had ‘some sexual experience,’ most commonly penile-vaginal or oral sex with a partner of the opposite sex. Though the rate of females reporting having had one of these types of sexual experiences remained steady through the entire 13-year study period, males reported rates of sexual experience decreased.
Encouragingly, the percent of females reporting having used birth control during their last sexual encounter increased from 86% in 2006-2010 to 91% in 2015-2019. The use of long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) use substantially increased between 2006 and 2019 and the data also showed that condoms are increasingly used in conjunction with another, more effective, method.
Using data from the 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, this study found overall low rates of immunization; only 18.2% of the sample population had received the HPV vaccination. People age 35 and older were more likely to not have received a vaccination no matter their gender or sexuality than their younger peers. However, for all age groups cisgender men, had very low uptake and the authors theorized that heterosexual women’s HPV vaccination rates are “likely driving up the vaccination among heterosexual populations” as a whole.