Community-level Interventions Essential to Improve Women’s Public Health
Women health
Community-level intervention is necessary to achieve women’s public health goals.

It takes community-level interventions to improve public health outcomes, especially when it comes to access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services by women and girls who are refugees and migrants, experts from the US-based Mayo Clinic said. 

“We know that the barriers for women are multifactorial and one solution is not going to fix our problem or increase cancer screening…We need to have these addressed by a multifactorial approach,” Brittany Strelow, a physician assistant at the Mayo Clinic said. 

Speaking at a webinar hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, Strelow shared her experiences with a community-centric project working with immigrant women in Rochester, Minnesota.   

Migrants and refugees face several challenges in the host countries, not only due to their civil status. Socio-cultural aspects like language and culture often stand in their way of accessing quality and timely healthcare. 

Strelow said that migrant women place a low priority on getting screened for cervical cancer and breast cancer because they struggle with other more important and basic things like finding affordable housing, food and nutrition.  

Language can be another major barrier for migrant women and girls to access sexual and reproductive healthcare. For example, in the US, one in ten residents are born abroad and around 7% of the residents do not speak English at all, Strelow pointed out. 

“Although we speak mostly in English in the United States, this can be applied on an international spectrum where an immigrant might be coming to another country that does not speak their native language.”

Danielle O’Laughlin, another physician assistant at the Mayo Clinic, added that women in their studies also struggled to access healthcare services due to religious and cultural barriers. In several cultures, women are not allowed to expose themselves even for medical examination or treatment to a doctor of the opposite gender. 

The WHO recently released a report outlining similar findings in a case study on the “Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and HIV Knows No Borders” project run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Save the Children and other governmental and non-governmental partners. 

The project, aimed at improving the access to HIV prevention methods and sexual and reproductive health of migrant women, girls and sex workers, worked with a variety of community-led approaches to achieving its goals. Initiatives like widespread sensitization on HIV transmission and screening, sexual and gender-based violence and setting up dialogue platforms with community, traditional and religious leaders helped the project see success. 

“In 2021 the project reached over 100 000 young vulnerable people, migrants and sex workers with health education on sexuality, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy and contraception through door-to-door visits and community events such as mobile clinics, outreach campaigns and community dialogues,” the report said. 

Over 14,000 young vulnerable people, migrants and sex workers were redirected to appropriate healthcare-based and non-healthcare-based interventions by this project. While healthcare interventions include HIV testing and distributing antiretroviral drugs, non-healthcare-based interventions include helping them access police, social welfare and counselling services. 

Image Credits: Photo by Rendy Novantino on Unsplash.

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