Central Health is using free pregnancy testing as a means to connect women with low income to comprehensive health care services.
It’s one way Central Health and its partners are improving the health of women and their babies in Travis County. Since January, Central Health Southeast Health & Wellness Center has offered 376 women a free pregnancy test. During the visits, staff offer health care enrollment assistance, and about a third of the women tested (118) became patients of Central Health-supported CommUnityCare Health Centers.
“The pregnancy test is an important entry point into prenatal care for our underserved population in Travis County,” said Dr. Abigail Aiken, Central Health Board Secretary and Assistant Professor of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. “Whether the test is positive or negative, it’s an opportunity to start a conversation about health. If they’re eligible, we can enroll the women in Central Health’s Medical Access Program (MAP), and if they’re pregnant, we make sure they’re receiving obstetric services at CommUnityCare.”
According to a 2017 Austin Public Health report, about twice as many Travis County Black and Hispanic women receive late or no prenatal care compared to their White counterparts. This disparity is even more pronounced among women with low income. “We’re using free pregnancy testing as a way to begin to help address this lack of care,” said Aiken.
In 2016, Central Health, Seton Healthcare Family, CommUnityCare Health Centers and the Dell Medical School at
The University of Texas joined forces to redesign pregnancy care for women with low-income or who are uninsured.
“The partnership is improving care for women and infants through prenatal screenings, convenient care closer to home or work, patient education, and more,” said Mike Geeslin, Central Health President and CEO. “Each patient has the chance to connect to other important health and medical services.”
The number of women served in the Central Health population is increasing every year. From fiscal years 2015 to 2017, the total number of women served increased from 85,742 women to 90,003.
“We are one of the only health centers offering free pregnancy testing in town, and a lot of the women we’re testing are new to CommUnityCare,” said Tiffany Reyes, Central Health Pregnancy Testing Specialist. “Not having to pay for the pregnancy test is one less thing to worry about. When we can quickly schedule patients to see a doctor, we increase their chances of having a healthy baby.”
To meet the growing demand, CommUnityCare is planning to provide free pregnancy testing services at additional locations. Women interested in a free pregnancy test should call 512-978-9901 or visit the Central Health Southeast Health & Wellness Center, 2901 Montopolis Drive, Austin, TX 78741, Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. No appointment is necessary.