By Teri Huyck,
President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin
One of the things I love most about working at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is that each day brings something new. Planned Parenthood is at once a neighborhood health care provider, a community resource and public policy advocate, so I can never quite predict what’s in store.
Every day in this work is different, and each of the communities throughout Wisconsin we serve is different, but what is common is one very simple fact: Planned Parenthood is here for the women, men and families throughout Wisconsin who rely on us, no matter what.
The emphasis of our work is prevention—prevention of unintended and teen pregnancy, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, prevention of reproductive health cancers and prevention of infant mortality. We provide high quality, affordable health care, honest, accurate community education and we advocate for policies supporting equal access to these services for all people.
We take this work very seriously, which is why we always work to provide our patients and community members with the most individualized care and relevant information for them.
Of particular concern to us is the myriad ways in which inequalities in health care access and availability affect the lives of African American women in Milwaukee.
Take, for instance, breast cancer. Statistically, African American women are less likely to get breast cancer than White women; however, they are more likely to die from breast cancer when they do have it. This is in large part because African American women are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage than White women.
In our work, we find that two factors contribute to this problem: First, too many women lack health insurance or access to affordable, high-quality health care services in their neighborhoods. And second, it’s important to know one’s family health history and to be open and honest with health care providers about what is known.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is working to promote regular breast cancer screenings and early detection of breast cancer among African- American women throughout our organization.
- Annually, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin provides nearly 62,000 exams, including breast cancer screenings. Nearly twenty percent of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s patients – more than 13,000 people – were African American in 2009.
- Our community educators have found that a lot of people don’t know their family’s health history, especially when it comes to reproductive health care issues like breast cancer. We’re a resource to help families learn and talk about reproductive health issues openly, honestly and accurately. Visit www.ppwi.org for information about upcoming community education events, including a free workshop for parents and teens May 7, as well as other resources.
- Planned Parenthood is also working every day in the state Capitol to protect maternal and child health programs like Medicaid, BadgerCare, the Well Woman Program and others that are facing cuts or elimination in Governor Scott Walker’s budget. Eliminating access and early detection through preventive care programs would lead to more cancer deaths, more undiagnosed HIV and untreated STDs, and more unintended pregnancies.
Health disparities in the African American community must be addressed. The care we provide should not be a political issue, yet over and over again we encounter politicians who believe organizations like ours should be eliminated. Make no doubt about it, this legislative session will bring threats to the health of Wisconsin women—and women of color in particular—like we’ve never seen before.
Even so, we have cared for women in Milwaukee for 75 years and we are determined to continue to care for generations of women to come.
We will because we must. The consequences for women’s health, for women’s lives, and for our families, are simply too great.
And so goes another day working at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.