Reproductive Life Planning in the Refugee Community: Focus on the Role of Men and Religion
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AbstractA Thesis submitted to The University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Medicine.
Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Women seen at Maricopa Integrated Health System (MIHS) Refugee Women’s Health Clinic (RWHC) are routinely offered education on developing a Reproductive Life Plan (RLP). In order to influence women’s reproductive health and medical decision‐making, there is a need to tailor RLP counseling to engage their male partners in the refugee community. We aimed to assess increased knowledge on preconception care related to the importance of developing a RLP, perspectives on birth spacing, and the influence of men as well as religion in medical decision‐making. We aimed to identify the refugee community’s receptivity to culturally and linguistically appropriate audiovisual modalities. Study participants comprised 120 refugees (39 men and 81 women) including couples, across the respective target languages with pre‐ and post‐Likert scale surveys assessing perspectives on RLP, birth spacing, the role of religion, and readiness for behavior change. Summary statistics examined changes in pre‐ and post‐Likert scale survey responses with responses dichotomized as Strongly agree/Agree compared against all other responses. A higher frequency of male respondents agreed about knowing what RLP means in the posttest relative to pretest (71.8% to 89.7%, P = 0.016) as well as 'Not having children…' (41% to 64.1%, P=0.035). Female respondents were more likely to agree to 'Know what RLP means' (76.5% to 86.4%, P =0.039) and 'Having a baby soon after…' (65.4% to 76.5%, P =0.035) after the training. They also were less likely to agree that 'RLP is about birth control' (71.6% to 59.3%, P =0.021). Amongst Muslim participants, we found improvement in knowing what RLP means (65.5% to 87.9%) and that it is important for men to have a RLP (67.2% to 84.5%). Cronbach’s alpha was used to measure internal inconsistency, with most values less than 0.5 and deemed unacceptable. Only one value, birth spacing, was > 0.6 and deemed questionable. There was the same degree of concordance, yet there also was discordance in the direction of opinions between women and men pre vs post‐test answers. When comparing couples pre and posttest, there was no significant differences observed across genders. This is the first reported U.S. initiative to provide a culturally and linguistically appropriate preconception health education. Project had demonstrated ability to mobilize several ethnic communities around the RLP. Respondents among both genders were more likely to agree about knowing what RLP means. The most challenging aspect of our community mobilization efforts was recruiting a larger sample size. Another limitation was the use of the Likert scale in a population with low literacy as there were some discrepancies in responses to negatively‐worded questions. Future studies could use a visual analog scale of smiley faces to assist those with limited literacy and incorporate a more global feel.