New HHS Family Planning Guidelines Form a Basis for Nationwide Efforts to Further Strengthen Care at Community Health Centers

A new report issued by the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative and the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, both part of Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University, examines the potential impact of comprehensive federal guidelines aimed at improving the quality of family planning services on the nation’s community health centers.  The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which oversees the health centers program, was extensively involved in the development of the guidelines, along with highly experienced front-line health center clinicians. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Population Affairs issued the guidelines in April 2014.

According to Milken Institute SPH researchers, these guidelines carry special resonance for community health centers because they are designed to ensure that high-quality family planning services become an integral part of comprehensive primary health care.  In 2012 some 1200 community health centers served more than 20 million patients, over 5 million of whom were women of childbearing age.  Health centers are located in urban and rural medically underserved communities and are centrally positioned to ensure access to care to millions of additional previously uninsured patients as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance reforms, coupled with the law’s direct investment in health center expansion.

In a 2013 study, Milken Institute SPH researchers had documented the availability of family planning, a required health center service, at virtually all health centers. The study found wide variation in the accessibility of various types of family planning services, including long acting reversible contraceptives (the most effective form of contraception), family planning counseling, and services focused on populations at highest risk for unintended pregnancy, such as adolescents.

The new report, developed with input from a group of health center clinical experts, recommends the establishment of a HRSA workgroup to expeditiously translate the new guidelines into actionable health center practice reforms; the development of quality performance measures; a new HRSA investment in health centers’ family planning programs in order to address contraceptive access and staff development and training; and the provision of technical assistance.

Sara Rosenbaum, JD, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy, Susan F. Wood, PhD, an associate professor of health policy and the executive director of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, along with their colleagues authored the new report.

Read the report here:  http://go.gwu.edu/familyplanningupdate