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Women?s health program targets ?hard-to-reach? populations

BY TRACEY DUGUAY [email protected] Nearly 20 per cent of all the women who took part in the Sudbury & District Health Unit WomenÂ?s Health and Wellness Program received abnormal results on their Pap tests.
BY TRACEY DUGUAY

Nearly 20 per cent of all the women who took part in the Sudbury & District Health Unit WomenÂ?s Health and Wellness Program received abnormal results on their Pap tests.

The Sudbury & District Health Unit WomenÂ?s Health and Wellness Program helped eliminate some of the barriers women experience when seeking health care.
One woman was even diagnosed with cervical cancer.

All of these women were considered to be in hard-to-reach populations, meaning they usually experienced Â?barriersÂ? when accessing primary health care and womenÂ?s wellness services.

The barriers included no family physician; rurality; geographic isolation; Aboriginal or minority ethnicity; recent immigration; minority language group; age groups under-screened for cervical cancer; low educational level; low income; homelessness; and transience.

In total, 778 women visited eight sites in Greater Sudbury, Chapleau and Espanola during the 18-month clinical outreach phase of the program, which ran from Aug. 22, 2001 until March 31, 2003. When factoring return visits, 1,100 appointments took place in this timeframe.

According to the project summary report released earlier this week, the goals of the health and wellness program were to:
Â? Deliver primary health care and screening services.
Â? Increase access to health care for underserved and hard-to-reach women in Sudbury and districts through an outreach model.
Â? Provide services in a manner that is satisfactory to clients.
Â? Ensure project sustainability through partnerships.

Aside from Pap tests, which 78 per cent of the women named as the major reason they attended the clinics, another highly motivating factor was the use of a female Nurse Practitioner. Fifty-one per cent of the clients in the program said they preferred a female medical provider.

The services offered at all of the sites included cervical screening, breast exams, mammogram referrals, pelvic exams, contraception and access to low-cost contraception, treatment of genital warts/HPV, STD/HIV testing, menopause counselling and other womenÂ?s wellness services.

Aside from abnormalities in Pap tests, other irregularities resulted in referrals being made to Gynecology; Obstetrics; Internal Medicine; Cardiology; Diabetes; Education/Nutrition Counselling; Sudbury Regional Breast Health Program; Ophthalmology; Ear, Nose and Throat; General Surgery; Hepatology, Neurology and Urology.

The program was funded by the Ontario WomenÂ?s Health Council, which strives to provide Â?equitable access to effective health services for women.Â?

According to the project summary report, women in Northern Ontario are in poorer health than other residents of Ontario because theyÂ?re are overweight, donÂ?t eat enough fruits and vegetables, smoke too much and binge drink, which is classified as having five or more drinks on one occasion, 12 or more times a year.

As well, about 20 per cent of women in Sudbury and the surrounding areas donÂ?t get regular Pap tests, recommended by the Ontario Cervical Screening Program every two years, and the rate of cervical cancer is higher.

These findings were supported in the heath care and wellness program as well, with 21.8 per cent of the women indicating they hadnÂ?t had a Pap test in the last three years, a further 10.4 per cent said they had never been screened prior to their visit.

With one of the program goals being sustainability, the data gathered through the project is being used to demonstrate Â?the viability of this outreach model and the use of Nurse Practitioners as primary health care providers.Â?

With than in mind, following the announcement by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for funding for Nurse Practitioners, VON Sudbury applied for money to continue the work of the womenÂ?s health care and wellness program.

The organization hired the same Nurse Practitioner who conducted the clinics to work out of their Elm Street office. Clients who took part in the program were invited to continue receiving health care at VON starting April 1, 2003. Women who continue to contact the health unit or other community agencies are also being referred to VON.

VON Sudbury is also expanding the services of the Nurse Practitioner program by including osteoporosis screening and treatment, making it the only clinic of its kind in the north. Women and men without regular access to a family physician can access the screening program.

For more information, phone VON at 671-1575.










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