”Expanding pregnancy testing is critical to improving health outcomes for both moms and their babies,” said Dr. Abigail Aiken, Central Health board member and assistant professor of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. “If a woman is pregnant and plans to continue her pregnancy, we want to make sure she has immediate access to prenatal care and is enrolled in a health coverage program. This reduces the risk of pregnancy complications and promotes healthy birth outcomes.”
Women can now receive a free pregnancy test without an appointment at CommUnityCare North Central, 1210 W. Braker Ln. The full-service health center is one of 24 operated by CommUnityCare, Central Health’s affiliated Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) system. As part of the pregnancy screening, women also receive an eligibility screening to determine their health coverage options, including MAP (Medical Access Program), MAP Basic, Healthy Texas Women, and Medicaid. Women are also connected to obstetrics care or other women’s health services. “We want to make sure every woman has access to the best health care, regardless of their economic situation or ZIP code,” Aiken said.
CommUnityCare North Central sees more patients annually than any other clinic in the CUC system. Of the more than 56,000 people living in the North Central Austin neighborhoods surrounding the clinic, more than 82 percent are non-white, and they experience some of the highest rates of poverty in Travis County. It is projected that by 2022, 32 percent of families in the area will be living in poverty, compared to 12 percent for all of Travis County.
Central Health opened a pregnancy testing center at the Central Health Southeast Health & Wellness Center at 2901 Montopolis Dr. in January 2018. To date, the pregnancy center has provided 608 women a free pregnancy test.
“We use evidence-based, women-centered approaches to simultaneously address a variety of health care needs,” Central Health Southeast Health & Wellness Center Program Director Elizabeth Marrero said. “Offering a pregnancy testing center at two of CommUnityCare’s largest sites is a critical part of Central Health’s strategy for improving and expanding access to care for women with low income.”
Providing women’s health services, especially prenatal care, is essential to addressing disparities that exist for women in Texas.
According to a 2017 Austin Public Health report, over one-third of all Hispanic infants in Travis County were born to women with late or no prenatal care. In addition, infant mortality rates are higher for blacks than whites and Hispanics. These disparities are even more pronounced among women with low income. Statistics show pregnancy outcomes improve with prenatal access and support navigating the system.
“Often pregnancy testing is the first entry point into the health care system for women and newborn babies,” Dr. Aiken said. “If we can make care accessible, and make sure pregnant women have a health care coverage program, hopefully more women will be able to stay in the system throughout their pregnancy and postpartum.”
Women interested in a free pregnancy test should call 512-978-8268 or visit CommUnityCare North Central, 1210 W Braker Ln., Austin, TX 78758, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. No appointment is necessary.