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Health care, elected leaders focus on issues critical to women and children

Race and gender, state budget shortfall among key topics discussed at ‘Women & Children First’ symposium
9th Annual Health Care Symposium
Renee Edwards, M.D., M.B.A., physician at the OHSU Center for Women’s Health, speaks on a panel at the 9th Annual Health Care Symposium held April 20, 2017 at OHSU's Collaborative Life Sciences Building in Portland. (Virginia Garcia Foundation/Wendy Owen) 

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek recently joined health care and community leaders to discuss issues critical to women and children in Oregon, including the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a looming state budget shortfall.

A recurring theme was the recent national dialogue on how race and gender are threatening health care outcomes for minority communities and other vulnerable populations.

“Typically, the Latino community has not been as affected by maternal morbidity rates,” said panelist Monica Arce, C.N.M., lead clinician at Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center. “The amount of stress is so potent that I am afraid those rates are going to start showing up. Evictions, fear of going to school, coming to the clinic, getting a job, driving … fear is all over the place.”

Panelists also expressed concerns around housing, diversity in the health care workforce, language barriers and domestic violence.

“One of the recent recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force is that health care providers ask patients if they have been the victim of domestic violence,” said panelist Renee Edwards, M.D., M.B.A., co-director of the OHSU Center for Women’s Health and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Doctors need to ask the questions and then patients will feel more comfortable talking about it.”

Speaker Kotek focused on housing, saying, “The recent trend in no-cause evictions is very concerning and we need to fix that.” 

Other topics of interest included affordability, access to birth control, children’s health insurance, prenatal care, school-based health centers, mental health counseling, geriatric care, prescription pricing, and national screening guidelines for women’s preventive health.

“When it comes to controlling health care costs, it’s important that health care providers are using evidence-based guidelines to order the right tests and the right medications,” said Edwards.

Other panelists included Stacy Cross, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette; Cristina Marquez, advocacy and civic engagement coordinator for Causa; and Linda Roman, director of health policy and government relations at the Oregon Latino Health Coalition. The town hall was hosted by Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center and moderated by Elizabeth Hayes, a health care reporter with Portland Business Journal.

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