Describe contraception availability at local health departments (LHDs) serving largely rural populations.
We invited administrators at LHDs located in four Midwest states to participate in an online survey conducted from September 2017–April 2018. We collected data on clinic staffing, patient population, receipt of Title X funds, and services provided to assess the proportion of LHDs providing any prescription method of contraception; secondary outcomes included healthcare staff training level and other reproductive health services provided.
Of 344 LHDs invited, 237 administrators completed the survey (68.9%). Three-quarters served rural populations. One-third (34.6%) provided short-acting hormonal contraception; however, availability varied by state (Kansas: 58.0%, 40/69; Missouri: 37.5%, 33/88; Nebraska: 16.7%, 3/18; Iowa: 9.7%, 6/62; p<.01). Only 8.4% of LHDs provided IUDs; 7.6% provided implants, and 5.9% provided both methods. LHDs in Nebraska and Kansas provided any long-acting method more frequently (Kansas: 17.4%, Nebraska: 16.7%, Iowa: 8.1%, Missouri: 4.6%; p=.04). LHDs receiving Title X funds (27.0%) were much more likely to provide any prescription contraception (85.1% vs. 14.2%, p<.01). Most LHDs relied on registered nurses (RNs) to provide medical care; 81.0% reported that RNs provided care≥20 days per month. Pregnancy testing was widely available in Missouri and Kansas (>87%) and less commonly available in Iowa and Nebraska (<18%) (p<.01).
LHDs in these states are currently ill-equipped to offer comprehensive contraceptive services. Women seeking care at LHDs have limited, if any, contraceptive options.
Local health departments in the Midwest, serving a largely rural population, rarely offer prescription contraception, especially long-acting reversible methods. Women residing in settings without broad access to publicly-funded healthcare providers may have limited access to comprehensive contraceptive services. Efforts to ensure rural access are needed.
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Published online: March 11, 2019
Accepted: February 20, 2019
Received in revised form: February 19, 2019
Received: December 1, 2018
☆Declarations of interest: none.
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