The Society of Family Planning (SFP) annual meeting was held virtually on October 1st and 2nd this year with well over one thousand attendees. For those who are not familiar with SFP, it is a community of like-minded people including clinicians, academics, residents, fellows, and students who share the same interest for family planning. SFP values diversity, equity, and the science behind abortion and contraception for everyone. I had the privilege of attending the meeting as part of an APPE rotation with Dr. Sally Rafie at Birth Control Pharmacist.
There were some highlights at the meeting:
Health Disparities Among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
On the days of the meeting, the opening plenary was presented by a group of panelists from across the country on the history that led to health disparities among Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and how future generations of healthcare providers, researchers can help address this gap. My favorite part of this presentation was listening to the vulnerability of the children of immigrants, through the lens of the panelists, regarding their experience about sexual reproductive health, and how much of a taboo topic it is to talk with their parents or even healthcare providers. Coming from a family of immigrants, this presentation hit home and how much it resonated with me professionally and personally. It was, as if, they were telling my story, and I am positive many fellow AAPIs feel the same way. To tell you the least, this plenary made me feel seen and inspired me to advocate for equitable health care among fellow Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) as an aspired ambulatory care pharmacist. As of now, the panelists are continuing to conduct more research to help AANHPIs in the near future regarding access to health care.
Impact of the Pandemic on Access to Care
The pandemic has changed the climate of healthcare delivery here in the United States. It was a challenge for patients, especially women and BIPOC, to visit their doctor’s office for appointments such as getting their birth control shot. Health care disparities also increased in women during the pandemic, and contraceptive visits have declined as well.
Evidence reviewed by Dr. Nguyen at the CDC and colleagues showed that the use of subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC) in four studies with self-injection and provider-injection groups resulted in no differences in pregnancies and side effects, along with higher continuation rate in the self-administered DMPA-SC at 12 months, therefore DMPA-SC should be offered to patients to increase access to reproductive care.
Another group of panelists presented on the impact of tear gas used by law enforcement and reproductive health following the racial justice protests in 2020. What they found was 100% of the participants in their research had health problems due to tear gas, alarmingly, 54.5% had changes to menstrual health such as increased bleeding, cramping, and unusual spotting.
Innovations in Abortion Care
The closing plenary was nothing short of relatable to what is going on in the country at the moment; the panelists presented on self-managed medication abortion in the United States among providers, patients, and seekers. Due to strict state laws regarding abortion and increased distances to abortion clinics, a telemedicine service was used to deliver medication abortion saw an increase of more than 40% within the last two years and it resulted in 96% of successful abortion and only 1% resulted in any serious adverse events. Unrelated to this study, but if pharmacies are able to dispense medication abortion, pharmacists get to use their expertise to help ease the anxiety and panic patients are facing who want an abortion but cannot access care.
Apart from disseminating information about family planning, there were presentations on how to use oral hormonal contraceptives in other health conditions. Additionally, there was a plethora of presentations on relevant topics such as how to counsel transgender and nonbinary patients on emergency contraceptives, anti-Black racism in obstetrics and gynecology, and many more.
Movie Screening & Discussion
To close out the annual meeting, and in my opinion, one of the many amazing things that happened at this meeting was the community screening of HBO Max’s Unpregnant. This movie depicts the struggles of two girls who are minors and cannot find an abortion clinic in their state that would provide care without parental consent and how religion plays a role in hindering an abortion. So, they had to drive from Kansas to New Mexico with hardly any resources to get to the clinic.
I hope this article sparks some interests and encourages you to play a part in advocating for reproductive justice.
For more information about the Society of Family Planning, visit https://www.societyfp.org/.
About the Author
Quyen Nguyen, PharmD Candidate 2022, is currently attending St. John Fisher College Wegmans School of Pharmacy in Rochester, New York. She is a member of APhA and the Treasurer for Club for Advancing Interprofessional Practice and Education (CAIPE). In this role, she collaborates with other healthcare professional students to help underserved patients in her community.