|Understanding and Supporting Well Woman
|How we engage with women about their health – in our clinics, communities, online, and otherwise – matters. Done right, it has the power to change lives. Although 65% of women ages 18-35 had a preventive visit in the last year, how they understand, manage, and access their health visit differs. Thankfully, we are seeing more organizations taking the time to listen to and learn from women about how to effectively reach and educate them about preventive care. This is something our PCH IM CoIIN sites are focusing on now.
As part of our work we continue to reach out to partners across the country to learn from other work underway. The ” Power Your Life, Power Your Health ” campaign from the Utah Department of Public Health has been working to understand the knowledge and behaviors of young women surrounding their care, particularly their well-woman visit. Over the past year, Power Your Life, Power Your Health met within both rural and urban areas of Utah to better understand how women access and think about their health care visit. From their focus groups, Power Your Life, Power Your Health has been able to identify opportunities and challenges in communicating and supporting these preventive visits. Below is a report with key themes from their work:
Understanding the Terminology
Women understood the terms “routine check-up,” “preventive care,” and “well-woman exam” differently.
To some, a routine check-up means getting lab work and being weighed and to others, it means going to an OB/GYN for a Pap smear and breast exam. Most participants thought preventive care was similar to a routine check-up but they did state that it also included preventing or early detection of diseases (such as cancer) that might run in a woman’s family.
Understanding Well-Woman Exams
When asked about well-woman exams, most women stated that it meant OB/GYN care, such as a Pap smear and breast exam. While some spoke of birth control and family planning, a few women had not heard the terms preventive care or well-woman exam. When
asked what a routine check-up meant to them, common responses were “blood work,” “lab work,” “Pap,” and “breast exam.” Most women stated one or two of them.
Understanding Who Provides CareSince women assign different meaning (and thus different functions) to each of these terms, they have varying opinions as to which type of medical provider a woman should visit for each check-up.
Some women associated routine check-ups with family practitioners, others with primary care providers, and some with OB/GYNs. Focus group participants shared similar thoughts when speaking about preventive care. A couple of the younger women still identified a routine check-up
as their pediatric appointment.
Understanding How Often to Get Care
An interesting strategy to come from their focus groups is moving from messages of going to a doctor every year for a well-woman exam to age-related recommendations for screenings and counseling. Most women across all of the focus groups responded that a year is the optimal time. Several participants added the caveat that one might need to go more frequently based on specific doctor recommendations.
Age and Experience MattersYounger, unmarried, less-experienced women knew less about preventive care and well-woman exams than their counterparts did. Some did not understand the concept, and referred to their dental or pediatric appointments.Younger women (who were not mothers) tended to more frequently talk about blood work, and th e women who did not know the terms preventive care or well-woman exam were not mothers.
Some of the variance in definition can be attributed to age and experience, particularly whether the participant is a mother. The mothers in the focus groups more readily identified OB/GYN care as part of routine, preventive, and well-woman care, while the non-mothers did not make this association. The mothers reported more understanding of the visit and exams, and also felt more comfortable interacting with their provider during the visit.
Barriers and Judgement Across the focus groups cost is stated as an issue. Even with insurance, the cost of the co-pay was a barrier. Many women did not realize the well visit was covered by insurance.In rural areas, not having a provider in their community or long wait times were issues. Scheduling issues arose with limited 9-5pm Mon-Friday appointments. A few of the women shared feelings of being judged by their doctors and feeling like they are not valued by them. This impacts their motivation to go for well-woman and preventive health checks.Also mentioned: insurance understanding, childcare, and provider relationships. Younger, unmarried women stated that fear and discomfort were reasons to put off or skip a visit.
Motivation to Schedule a VisitThe most commonly stated motivators included becoming sexually active; giving birth; feeling concerned that something is wrong (often related to their menstrual cycle); or have a family history of disease, such as cancer.
Well Woman Campaign and Tools
Power Your Life, Power Your Health is currently updating their website and resources to better support and educate about the importance of the well visit. You can visit their website to view new well woman informational tools.
Their team put together a social-media, patient education video about the well visit – be sure to repost this on your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts! click here to watch
|To learn more about the work being done in Utah to raise awareness about the well woman visit, email NPalacios@Utah.Gov.