Published May 13, 2020
Congratulations to Professor Gretchen Ely, PhD/MSW student Jessica Mencia and their UB colleagues on the publication of their article, "Family Planning Practices in Appalachia: Focus Group Perspectives on Service Needs in the Context of Regional Substance Abuse," in the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health.
Swan, L. T., Auerbach, S., Ely, G. E., Agbemenu, K., Mencia, J. J., & Araf, N. (2020). Family planning practices in Appalachia: Focus group perspectives on service needs in the context of regional substance abuse. International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health [special issue: Women’s Reproductive and Maternal Health], 17, 1198.
Reproductive health disparities in the Appalachian region may be driven by barriers to healthcare access. However, the barriers specific to accessing family planning services in Appalachia have not yet been identified from the perspectives of Appalachian community members. Moreover, it is unclear how community members might perceive elevated levels of opioid use in the region to impact family planning practices. To fill this gap in knowledge, the current qualitative study explored community perspectives about family planning in Appalachia in the context of the opioid epidemic for the purpose of developing a survey instrument based on these responses. We conducted three video call focus group interviews with community stakeholders, those who live, work and are invested in Appalachia (N = 16), and analyzed the responses using Levesque, Harris, and Russell’s (2013) five pillars of healthcare access as a framework to categorize family planning practices and perceptions of service needs in the context of regional substance abuse: (1) approachability, (2) acceptability, (3) availability and accommodation, (4) affordability, and (5) appropriateness. Subthemes within each of these five categories were also identified. Our findings highlight stakeholder concerns around a lack of knowledge about and access to family planning services in Appalachia. Community members also expressed concern around the lack of availability of substance use treatment services, which may negatively impact family planning use and access in the region.