Missouri Family Health Council

Missouri

For nearly 40 years, the Missouri Family Health Council (MFHC) has provided reproductive health care services to the citizens of Missouri. The MFHC, like so many NFPRHA members, plays many roles in its state: grant administrator, provider, educator and advocate. As the sole Title X grantee for the state of Missouri, the MFHC makes certain that quality family planning and related preventive health services are available to Missouri’s residents, through a network of 21 delegate agencies and 105 total sites. Services are delivered at community action agencies, local public health departments, Planned Parenthood affiliates, federally qualified health centers and other non-profit organizations. In the last year alone, the MFHC Title X network provided health care services to 72,750 individuals. Many of the MFHC’s agencies serve a large concentration of Latino, Bosnian and Korean populations, and all of its materials are produced in both English and Spanish.

In partnership with the Missouri Primary Care Association, the MFHC recently completed a widely successful three-year human papillomavirus (HPV) prevention program. The organizations received funding from the Missouri Foun­dation for Health to implement this program across the state, with the goal of vaccinating girls and young women ages 9-26 against HPV. According to the Missouri Foundation for Health, “The grant represent[ed] the largest non-governmental funding of the vaccine's distribution in the United States, and the most comprehensive effort in any state to ensure all who can benefit from the vaccine receive it.” The grant enabled Missouri health care providers to offer the vaccine at no cost to girls and women who were underinsured, uninsured or who did not qualify for Mis­souri's Vaccines for Children program.

The MFHC undertook a large social marketing initiative to promote the HPV program during the three-year effort, producing informational brochures to help educate the public about HPV and the HPV vaccine, holding exhibits at conferences for health care providers and advertising on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. The MFHC also publicized the program in radio spots and YouTube videos, as well as distributed informational posters and tee shirts to its agencies. An HPV taskforce was created, made up of health professionals from across the state. Along with the taskforce, the MFHC staff dedicated itself to creating group-specific letters to various constituen­cies across the state. Missouri colleges and universities in particular were very involved in the implementation of the program, and many created marketing tools of their own to encourage students to participate in the program. For the duration of the three-year HPV program, the MFHC network of providers administered a total of 45,139 shots to 22,073 girls and young women.

The MFHC has also found success in its legislature, despite a consistently unfriendly political climate. During Mis­souri’s last legislative session, the MFHC served as the catalyst for the introduction and subsequent passage of an Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT) bill. EPT is the clinical practice of treating the sex partners of patients diagnosed with Chlamydia or gonorrhea by providing prescriptions or medications to patients to take to their partners, without requiring those partners to be tested or evaluated by the health care provider. In collaboration with the Missouri State Medical Association and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the MFHC spent significant time advocating for EPT with state legislators and worked with the public to encourage them to do the same.

The practice of EPT became legal in the state through the passage of House Bill 1375 on August 28, 2010. EPT in Missouri is limited to oral medications that adequately treat Chlamydia and gonorrhea. The political climate in Mis­souri is always difficult for family planning; this atmosphere, however, made the EPT victory even more gratifying for the MFHC. According to MFHC’s Executive Director Connie Cunningham, “This is good public health, and that’s how we sold it.”

Missouri’s difficult political climate will become even more challenging following the mid-term elections in Novem­ber. This atmosphere, combined with diminishing funds, is making it increasingly difficult for the MFHC’s agencies to serve the reproductive health needs of their communities, particularly in rural areas of the state. Cunningham said, “We’re really trying to start to build new relationships – with community leaders, advocates and legislators alike. It’s going to be hard and there will be a lot of strategizing, but we’re working to figure out where we will fit in because it’s so important. As we get out there and begin telling our patients’ stories one by one, we hope to make an impact on our elected leaders.”

 

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National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association

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Phone: 202-293-3114  |  info@nfprha.org

© 2011 National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association