This Women’s Health Clinic is Ensuring No One is Left Behind

This clinic is part of NEO Philanthropy’s Donor Services Program.

When most people think about Planned Parenthood, they immediately think about the national headlines, the polarized debates, and the organization that has become a household name. What is less likely to come to mind are the small clinics situated in small towns next to Zumba centers or a local eatery. These clinics, including NEO’s grantee Planned Parenthood South Texas, are serving populations of people who don’t have many options when it comes to reproductive healthcare, or any healthcare for that matter.

Meeting Patients Where They Are

Instructor teaching sex education
Promotoras teach a class about sexual health.

Planned Parenthood South Texas (PPST) has two clinics reaching a population of women who would otherwise go overlooked by the health care system. Located steps from the U.S./Mexico border in Harlingen and Brownsville, PPST serves an overwhelmingly Latinx population who are of reproductive age, uninsured and low-income. To reach the vulnerable populations in their community, PPST relaunched the Habla Con Tu Hermana Program that sends dedicated, bilingual Promotoras (community health workers) into the community to educate individuals and provide direct services.

When the Promotoras do outreach in the community, they provide potential patients with redeemable health vouchers that cover the cost of clinic visits. The Habla vouchers are intended primarily for women of reproductive age who have not had a gynecological visit in more than one year and are not covered by commercial insurance or Medicaid. In 2018 alone, 177 vouchers were redeemed for health care, of which 85% were new patients. To the practitioners’ surprise, countless women who visited the clinic had not been to the doctor in years. They dealt with persistent health issues and did not seek treatment because they feared the cost. Therefore, in addition to providing common services such as STD testing, cervical cancer screening, birth control and well-woman exams, they were identifying and treating more serious health conditions, such as heart disease.

Pushing Back Against Barriers

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Inside the Planned Parenthood clinic
Inside the Planned Parenthood clinic.

Compared to the U.S. population overall, Rio Grande Valley residents have less education due to a variety of factors. Additionally, abstinence-only instruction remains the predominant approach to sex education in Texas. Promotoras cannot go to public schools to provide sex education classes, which contributes to repeat teen pregnancy rate – the highest in the country. Too many women do not have the education or the resources to access high-quality health care and it becomes extremely difficult for women to finish high school, pursue higher education and build successful careers if they don’t know how to control their fertility.

To reach their target audience, Promotoras attend and present at health fairs and events by a variety of community organizations including at Woman, Infant & Children (WIC) centers, housing authorities, churches, the Family Crisis Center and more. Since the Habla program relaunched in 2015 through NEO’s funding, volume at the Rio Grande Valley clinics has increased 10%.

Through the Promotora and voucher program, Planned Parenthood South Texas is reaching a community that could easily slip through the cracks. Instead, they are making it their duty to ensure these women never go overlooked.

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