How can states integrate family planning into their Zika responses?

Many of the US states most vulnerable to mosquito-borne transmission of Zika also have exceptionally high rates of unintended pregnancy. Because Zika can impair fetal development and be transmitted sexually, reducing unintended pregnancies is a vital preventive strategy. A new article chronicles the efforts of eight at-risk states to integrate family planning into their Zika response plans and expand available services.

The Office of Population Affairs (OPA), a federal agency focused on family planning, facilitated collaboration and communication among the eight states. OPA also provided an educational toolkit, which includes contributions from Bixby members, to support the states’ outreach efforts.

Although many of the states have successfully expanded the family planning aspects of their Zika plans, many also report key barriers to progress, including:

  • Family planning services are not typically part of emergency response efforts, so standard plans and materials must be amended.
  • The rapidly evolving nature of knowledge and recommendations related to Zika makes communications challenging.
  • Limited available funds for family planning and a lack of trained providers make access difficult to expand quickly.

Based on their experiences, the participating states identified best practices for other states across the US, including:

  • Start planning and implementing Zika-related family planning care before a local transmission actually occurs.
  • Equip clinics to offer a wide range of contraceptive methods and services, which may require using referrals, training providers or adjusting reimbursement policies.
  • Ensure that each clinic visit for clients of reproductive age includes screening for potential Zika exposure and counseling on potential risks and how to reduce them.

Learn more about how Beyond the Pill, a Bixby Center program, is leading efforts in Puerto Rico, an area hard hit by Zika, to train providers in contraceptive counseling and services.