Planned Parenthood = Primary, Preventive Care

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Planned Parenthood = Primary, Preventive Care

Jodi Jacobson

As the health care reform debate heats up, Planned Parenthood Action Fund today has launched a multimedia campaign focused on the central role played by Planned Parenthood affiliates in communities across the nation.

As the Obama Administration and Congress turn their full attention to reforming the nation’s health care system, Planned Parenthood Action Fund today has launched a multimedia campaign focused on the central role played by Planned Parenthood affiliates in communities across the nation: Providing millions of Americans with essential primary and preventive health care every day.  The campaign’s website
will serve as a hub for online education and advocacy and provides
links to television and web ads, and a range of interviews with providers, clients, and parents of students who have received care from Planned Parenthood.

“Women’s health care must be a priority [in health care reform]," states Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards.  "As a trusted health care
provider, Planned Parenthood knows firsthand how critical it is to
expand access to health care, including reproductive health care."  Facts about Planned Parenthood’s services, meant to counter the misinformation often spread about Planned Parenthood centers, are detailed in the television ads launched as part of the campaign, one of which can be viewed here

More than 90 percent of the care provided by Planned Parenthood
community health centers daily includes wellness exams, cancer
screenings, immunizations, contraception and STD testing and
treatment.  For millions of women, Planned Parenthood is the only or the primary provider of health care accessible to them economically
and geographically, and a critical entree to other health care services.  In one interview, for example, a counselor describes seeing patients for reproductive health care, one of whom exhibits a persistent cough, leading the counselor to assist the client in finding care for a respiratory infection.

“There are “more than 850 affiliate health centers across
the country, providing primary and preventive care," stated Richards.  "Every year," she continued, the centers provide a wide range of services, including:

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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more than
850,000 breast exams, contraception to nearly 2.5 million patients,
more than three million tests and treatments for STDs, including HIV,
and nearly 50,000 colposcopies.

Planned Parenthood’s services are an increasingly critical safety net in an uncertain economy.  Today, roughly 16.7 million women are uninsured, and thus likely to
postpone care and delay or forego important preventive care.  As economic conditions have worsened, the demand on Planned Parenthood centers has surged, as many people who’ve lost their jobs and/or health insurance look to the affiliates for high-quality health care.

"Six in 10 clients consider family
planning centers, like Planned Parenthood health centers, their main
source of health care," according to the campaign website, "and [o]ften, these centers are their only interaction
with the country’s health care system."

The importance of these services to women’s health, and to the health of low-income women and students particularly, can not be overstated.

For example, Planned Parenthood clinics provide nearly one million cervical cancer screenings to women annually.  The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2009, about
11,270 cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the
United States.
  Non-invasive cervical cancer is estimated by some researchers to be 4 times more common than invasive
cervical cancer.

About 4,070 women will die from cervical cancer in the United
States during 2009 according to the ACS.  The Pap test, which finds early indications of cervical cancer and is one of many screening services provided by Planned Parenthood affiliates, is cited by ACS as the primary reason that the rate of death from cervical cancer, once one of the most common
causes of cancer death for American women, has declined by 74 percent between 1955 and 1992. 

These services are particularly critical to improving the health of low-income women, and Hispanic and African-American women.  Cervical cancer occurs most often in Hispanic women according to ACS; the rate
is over twice that in non-Hispanic white women. African-American women
develop this cancer about 50 percent more often than non-Hispanic white women.  Planned Parenthood helps fill the gap in among uninsured women in these communities by providing essential screening services as one aspect of the overall complement of care women receive.

Screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections are another critical aspect of Planned Parenthood’s basic services, particularly among students and youth.  Lack of comprehensive sexuality education in schools and lack of access to services have led to high rates of sexually transmitted infections in teens throughout the United States. "Some populations of youth
face excessive risk, according to Advocates for Youth, "including African American youth, young women, abused youth,
homeless youth, young men who have sex with men (YMSM), and gay,
lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) youth." 

Direct medical costs associated with treatment of STIs costs roughly $15 billion dollars annually in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute. By providing screening and treatment services, and immediate follow-up counseling on preventing new infections, Planned Parenthood centers help improve health and save health care costs more broadly.

“Planned Parenthood health centers have been a trusted provider of
essential, preventive care for more than 90 years," states Richards, [and] Planned Parenthood is part of the solution in fixing America’s broken health care system.”  She continued:

Those who come through Planned Parenthood’s health center doors know they will get quality care at affordable costs.  That’s what we all should be striving for as we work to reform our health care system.

The campaign serves both as a tool for increasing awareness of the full range of services provided by Planned Parenthood, and anticipates attacks on reproductive health care as part of health care reform.

As the health care reform debate moves forward," notes the website,

those who want to deny
access to comprehensive reproductive health care will continue to
target both Planned Parenthood and the health insurance coverage that
meets all the health care needs of women, men, and teens. We need your
help to guarantee that health care reform works for us all.