Clinicians and Patients Work Together to Improve Preconception Health in the U.S.

Posted June 14, 2016 by Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH

Show Your Love Campaign
The PCHHC's Show Your Love initiative aims to improve preconception care by teaching people how to manage their health.

Fostering the creation of healthy families by choice, not chance, is not a new idea. Healthy People 2020 established family planning goals aimed at improving pregnancy planning, spacing and preventing unintended pregnancy. Further, in its recommendations for preconception care, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the national initiative encourage men and women to create a reproductive life plan (RLP) to help avoid unintended pregnancies, to improve the health of women and men, and reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes. Given the high rates of unintended pregnancy in the U.S., action is needed from all stakeholders—consumers, health providers, policy makers—in proactively supporting this critical conversation.

The National Preconception Health and Healthcare Initiative (PCHHC), a public-private partnership of over 70 U.S. organizations, is taking a multi-sector, multi-faceted approach to establish measurable best practices in preconception health care in the U.S. The PCHHC’s five workgroups—consumer, clinical, policy & finance, surveillance and data, and public health—are on a mission to help young adults achieve their optimal health and wellness, fostering healthy life courses for themselves and any children they may have. The emphasis is particularly on young adults in underserved populations.

This year, the PCHHC Clinical Workgroup published nine clinical measures that health systems and clinics should be using to index preconception wellness. The workgroup is collaborating with healthcare clinics and systems to test measures and systems for addressing preconception health—for every woman, every time. Read more about the Preconception Care Measures.

Healthcare providers can start the conversation during primary care, outpatient, annual and hospital visits to ensure that they are providing quality, patient-centered care. Reproductive life planning can also be introduced in community settings through home visiting programs, job training, family support programs, church programs, sororities and other initiatives.

The question is easy. Try the following one key question (from the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health): “Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?" Other questions to ask are, “Do you want to have (more) children?” or “How many (more) children would you like to have and when?”

Enabling clinicians to provide optimal care is a critical step towards improving preconception care in the U.S., as is encouraging young adults to understand and take action in their personal health management. Recognizing the necessity of pairing clinical care with patient education and resources, the PCHHC Consumer Workgroup conducted formative research to understand women’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors as they relates to preconception health. Building on this work, the consumer workgroup is launching Show Your Love, the first national preconception health resource and social media campaign designed to promote wellbeing and support young adults in achieving their healthy-living goals. The resource is meant to go beyond sharing information about key preconception messages, providing personalized resources to allow patients to take control of their health.

As part of Show Your Love, the PCHHC recruits ambassadors to create an online support system and share their questions, dreams, goals and health journeys through social media.
PCH Chat Campaign
Join the PCHHC's discussion about men's roles in preconception care. 

In the U.S., there is significant synergy growing around this work, including efforts through state Title V programs. Attention to the health and well-being of adolescents and young adults is critical for the health of our current society and generations to come.

NICHQ has partnered with the PCHHC on both initiatives, and has been a key partner in driving forward this consumer work. Read more about the Show Your Love resource, social media campaign and Ambassador Program here:

Join the conversation!
The PCHHC is leading a Men’s Health Month twitter chat to shed lights on men’s roles in preconception care. Join the conversation June 16th 1-2 p.m. ET using #PCHchat on Twitter. Learn more here.

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH, is the director of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.


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