Original Research

Providing comprehensive contraceptive services in primary care at a rural Federally Qualified Health Center in the USA: adapting to patient need in a culturally conservative, rural environment


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Sophie G Wenzel1
DrPH, Assistant Professor of Practice *

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Kristina Y Risley2
DrPH, Managing Director


1 Center for Public Health Practice and Research, Population Health Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA

2 Workforce, DeBeaumont Foundation, 7501 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA

ACCEPTED: 29 March 2021

early abstract:

Introduction: In the US, approximately 45% of pregnancies are unintended. Accessing quality contraceptives can be a barrier for some individuals, especially low-income, uninsured, minority or younger women. These problems are exacerbated in rural areas. [1] Integrating contraceptive services into primary care is an approach to ensure that sexually active women receive access to contraceptives. This study documented how one rural Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) adapted to their culturally conservative environment by offering contraceptive counseling, comprehensive education on birth control, and access to contraceptive services directly through primary care.
Methods: Twenty-one semi structured interviews were conducted and analyzed in Atlas.ti. All women patients who had received contraceptive services through primary care in the previous six months were invited to participate in a semi-structured interview.  A sample of current and past board members were invited to participate in semi-structured interviews. A sample of five primary care providers and nurses who interact with women receiving contraceptive services was invited to participate in a semi-structured in-person interview.  In addition, the executive director, the clinic manager, and the current and past medical directors were interviewed. A hybrid of inductive and deductive coding methods was used for theme generation.
Results: Interviews helped to highlight some of the barriers to accessing contraceptives currently experienced by women in this rural area, and showcased how this FQHC is adapting their approach and their services to be able to meet patient needs. The following themes emerged: lack of knowledge about services offered, lack of knowledge about birth control, misinformation and misconceptions, education on birth control and care model.
Conclusions: The cultural context of Southwest Virginia, including the cultural conservatism and stigma associated with talking about sex has a big impact on people’s willingness to access contraceptive services. Stigma limits educational opportunities being offered in schools, therefore limiting people’s knowledge about services and birth control methods. This FQHC has adapted to their surrounding culture by ensuring that every woman seeking primary care at the FQHC is screened for contraceptive need, offered contraceptive counseling and comprehensive contraceptive methods. This FQHC’s integration of contraceptive services is a model that can be replicated by other FQHCs, by local health departments, and by private physicians.