Speaking up for women’s health at public health round table

by Sarah Stoesz
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund

Last week U. S. Senator Al Franken hosted a round table discussion with Minnesota’s public health community. I was proud to join with my colleagues in public health to discuss the poor state of health care in America.

The group included representatives from county public health agencies, as well as the Medical associations, the U of M School of Public Health, Minnesota chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness, MN Institute of Public Health, Open Cities Health Center, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwa, Minnesota Public Health Association, American Heart Association and a number of others.

Senator Franken led us in a meaningful discussion about health care reform that is based on equity and access for all. There is no doubt that Senator Franken will be a champion for the public health needs of our state as he works with his colleagues to fashion health care reform policy in America.

I shared some of my experiences as CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. We at Planned Parenthood are keenly aware that without access to reproductive health care, specifically birth control, women have little hope of escaping poverty. Direct access to reproductive health care is both a wellness and a justice issue.

PPMNS’ biggest concern is that women’s health be kept front and center throughout the health care reform discussion. Our nation’s current patchwork system leaves nearly 1 in 5 young women uninsured. They are at a significant disadvantage.


• Compared with men, women require more medical services, have higher out-of-pocket medical costs and lower average incomes.
• Women are less likely than men to be insured through their jobs (39 % v. 49%) and more likely to rely on public programs.
• Women are more vulnerable to losing their insurance, if they become divorced or widowed, because they are more likely than men to be covered as dependents.
• More than half of women (52%) delay or avoiding needed care because of cost, compared with 30% of men.
• Women are more at risk than men of piling up medical debt they can’t pay (45% compared with 32%).

(stats via commonwealth fund)

Women need direct access to reproductive health care providers, because for many women, reproductive health care is often their primary or only source of care. Community Health providers like Planned Parenthood must be part of the solution and must be included in any health care reform.

Ninety-five percent of the care Planned Parenthood delivers is preventive and primary. Last year, our organization provided more than 300,000 units of contraception, 58,000 STI tests, 20,000 breast cancer screenings and 17,000 cervical cancer screenings. More than half of our 63,000-plus patients are at or below 100% of the federal poverty level. 81 percent of our patients are eligible for care at little or no cost. Only 5 percent of our patients can afford the full cost of their care. 75 percent of our patients do not have access to private insurance.

The forum was a great opportunity to have a thoughtful conversation with leaders in public health from across the state as we work to fashion health care reform. Thank you, Senator Franken for your attention to public health, prevention and wellness.



North Dakota

South Dakota


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