Editor’s Note: This is the third piece in a series called “Putting Anthropology to Work” contributed by students of Margaret Buckner at Missouri State University.
Recently, I partnered with the Impacting Poverty Collaborative in Springfield, Missouri to research underfunded women’s healthcare in the area. I began the project by using social network analysis software to chart local providers and the services that they offered. The analysis showed that there was only one provider that offered abortion referrals, three that offered pre-natal healthcare, and two that that offered post-birth care. More facilities in the area offer breast cancer examinations than cervical cancer screenings. Out of the total of five providers, four provided general reproductive healthcare and PAP smears, as well as STI/STD testing, three provided birth control, and all five provided pregnancy testing.
After discovering the disproportionate offerings of pregnancy testing to pregnancy care, I interviewed a woman who had used Springfield’s underfunded women’s healthcare system while she was pregnant. She revealed that the Pregnancy Care Center was her first choice of help, going to them to confirm that she was pregnant. My informant was under the impression that the Pregnancy Care Center would offer prenatal care, and was forced to find another provider when she discovered that they do not. She went to Jordan Valley Health Center for both her prenatal and post birth care, and still takes her daughter to this facility. Another issue that my informant discussed was her lack of transportation during her pregnancy. She relied on the public transit system to travel to her appointments, and told me that this often meant dedicating an entire day to visiting her provider.
After hearing that transportation was such an issue for her, I decided to ride the bus to three different women’s healthcare providers in my area. The round trip times, including time for appointment, ranged from two and a half to five hours. The trip that took two and a half hours was to a facility that is less than two miles from my house.
This experience with public transit inspired me to do a mapping analysis of the providers in the area. Initially, I planned to map how far they were from the nearest bus stop, but discovered that they were all mere feet from a stop. The mapping analysis did bring another fact to light, though. The underfunded women’s healthcare providers in Springfield are located primarily in the central and south-central areas of town. This means that women who live on the North, East, or West parts of town (the less affluent areas) would have to travel a great distance to get to their doctor’s appointments.
I then decided to do a freelisting exercise with ten underfunded women and ten female college students in which I asked where they could go to get healthcare. There was a wide discrepancy in thee results. The underfunded women tended to name county-run health centers and Planned Parenthood (which don’t offer pre-natal care), while the college students named hospitals (which uninsured women would find unaffordable).
My overall recommendations are to make the information about what services are offered, and who is offering them, more available to the women in an easily accessible flyer or on a website. Transportation and location are also a major issue, but these could be addressed by a mobile clinic or other modes of transportation to providers.
Lisa Erhart is an undergraduate student at Missouri State University.
Cite as: Erhart, Lisa. 2017. “Underfunded Women’s Healthcare.” Anthropology News website, August 9, 2017. doi: 10.1111/AN.5