Improving Access to Reproductive Health Care for Medically Underserved Women

    • September 6, 2012

It seems like a long time ago that RWJF, through its New Jersey Health Initiatives program, funded a new program developed by Planned Parenthood of Central and Greater Northern New Jersey (formally PP of Central NJ). It was 2004, when the Bridge Builders Program began…and in many ways is still going strong.

Bridge Builders is an intensive program of outreach, education, and medical services that improves access to reproductive health care for medically underserved women. The Bridge Builders project creates a personal link between women in the community and access to reproductive health services through community liaisons or Bridge Builders. In the community, the Bridge Builder liaisons provide one-to-one outreach and education for women, linkage to appointments, and patient follow-up. In our health centers, our liaisons assist with translation, patient registration and intake, and provide a “familiar face” for patients they first met out in the community.

The reproductive health care services incorporated in the Bridge Builders program include breast and cervical cancer screening, prescription of contraceptive methods, screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy testing and counseling. The Bridge Builder liaisons also serve as a link to community agencies, schools and religious organizations by providing information and programming in collaboration with community partners.

In the three years during which funding was provided by RWJF/NJHI to support the Bridge Builders program, Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey provided health care services to more than 1,100 women and education and outreach services to upwards of 10,000 individuals.

This program has had lasting impact. More than 70 percent of women initially seen through our Bridge Builders program returned for ongoing preventative health care. Many more referred their own friends and family to seek health services at Planned Parenthood. As a result of the program, our staff developed and strengthened new and existing partnerships with community agencies, including hospitals and healthcare facilities, faith-based organizations, community centers, social service agencies, shelters, treatment facilities, Head Start programs, and other local organizations. These partnerships created opportunities for increased collaboration and most importantly, more underserved individuals accessing preventative health care.

In 2012, eight years after the original program was launched, Bridge Builders is being replicated by a Planned Parenthood affiliate in New York. We are pleased to be providing technical support to ensure their program’s success. We are so appreciative that RWJF/NJHI invested in a program that has and continues to have a lasting impact on the health and well-being of so many medically underserved individuals throughout New Jersey—and beyond.