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Most American adults support reproductive health care in school-based health centers, study finds

Most services were supported in School of Public Health-led survey, with the exception of gynecological exams

In America today, school-based health centers (SBHCs) provide screenings and preventive care for millions of adolescents in schools and can be particularly helpful for teenagers in need of reproductive health care. A new study published in the journal Contraception looks at how the American public views reproductive health care services provided through SBHCs and factors possibly related to those opinions.

In the study, assistant professor Simon Haeder, PhD, and associate professor Daniel Marthey, PhD, of the Texas A&M University School of Public Health and a colleague from Ohio University surveyed 4,196 American adults on their opinion of reproductive health care services in SBHCs.

The survey asked respondents about their level of support for providing seven common reproductive health services in a SBHC setting. These included pregnancy testing, over-the-counter contraceptives, prescription contraceptives, testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, gynecological exams and sexual violence counseling. The researchers also collected data on political ideology, measure of trust for public school principals, level of religiosity, and whether the respondent lived in an urban, suburban or rural setting. In addition, the study included control variables such as income, race and ethnicity, age and level of education.

The researchers analyzed levels of support for the seven listed services and examined factors related to support of or opposition to those services.

“Most respondents were supportive of SBHCs providing reproductive health services, with the exception of gynecological exams,” said Haeder. ”Support for prescription contraception in SBHCs was somewhat higher than that for gynecological exams, but still lower than the other services.”

The remaining five services had support greater than 60 percent, with sexual violence counseling being the most supported.

The researchers found self-described conservatives were overall less supportive of providing reproductive health services in SBHCs. Self-reported liberals were generally more supportive. Respondents who expressed higher levels of trust in public school principals were more supportive of SBHC-provided reproductive health care, as were women and people living in urban areas. Respondents who reported being more involved in religion reported lower levels of support overall.

These findings point to ideological factors being associated with levels of support for SBHC-administered reproductive health care. Understanding what drives support for these services is vital for improving access to reproductive health care services for adolescents.

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