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Justice Friday examines women’s health nationally and at Saint Mary’s

| Monday, November 23, 2015

This week’s installment of the Justice Friday series at Saint Mary’s focused on barriers to health care services, mental health services and some of the health-related resources on the College’s campus. The talk was hosted by a panel of students and the director of Health and Counseling Center at Saint Mary’s.

Junior Caylin McCallick spoke about low income health care and the racial and ethnic disparities for receiving health care.

“In Indiana, per 1,000 live births, 13 black babies die … only seven of every 1,000 white babies die,” she said. “Low-income families have a higher risk of cancer and other health related issues.”

She said children in low-income families, including those enrolled in the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often do not have access to health care, which can lead to further health and financial struggles.

“Low-income children are often on the SNAP program, and it’s hard to get good quality, nutritious food on that program,” she said. “Children need nutrients to develop their bodies and minds. They don’t get these nutrients, and then they don’t have health care to back them up when they develop problems like asthma or dental issues, which furthers their poverty because they have to pay for everything out of pocket.”

McCallick said an expansion on the Affordable Care Act could benefit low-income women.

“Over a woman’s lifetime, her total health costs are $361,200, and that is not affordable for everybody,” she said. “Under the Affordable Care Act, a lot of women would be eligible to receive Medicaid. Medicaid for low-income patients is an expansion … and only 31 states are allowing this expansion as of July 16.”

McCallick said other issues factor into healthcare disparities as well.

“One article I read claimed that general healthcare disparities are a social justice problem,” McCallick said. “… Even if we had universal healthcare and applied universal healthcare, we would still have these disparities because racism is a social problem that often affects [a patient’s] quality of care; it affects diagnosis.”

Senior Bri O’Brien offered statistics about mental illness and said the American healthcare system has a gap that can prevent those with mental illness from being covered.

“Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option to expand their coverage, but many are choosing not to,” she said. “[Because of] that, there is this Medicaid gap where people can’t afford coverage but they make enough to where they aren’t eligible or they’re too young for coverage. So that leaves about 3.9 percentage of adults in America that have a mental illness uninsured because of this Medicaid gap.”

Elizabeth Fourman is a board-certified OB/GYN nurse practitioner and currently serves as director of the College’s Health and Counseling services. She listed some of the services that the College offers in the area of women’s health.

“We offer any women’s health tests outside of surgery and ultrasounds,” she said. “For example, we can provide STI testing, pregnancy tests, urinalysis and pap smears.”

Fourman said the counselors at Saint Mary’s are another resource the health and counseling center provides.

“We have three trained and trustworthy counselors,” she said. “… They are all very open and welcoming and want to help students with whatever they need with no agenda.”

In addition to nurses and counselors, Fourman said the center has psychiatrists and physicians on a limited basis.

“We have a psychiatrist that comes in once a week that is a free resource. … You can see a nurse and be directed to a physician who comes in once a week as well,” she said.

Fourman said some resources available at the center are free, but others are not.

“The exams and appointments are free, however, the lab tests must be paid for,” she said. “You can choose to file labs with insurance or not, and they are offered at a large discount for Saint Mary’s women.”

The Justice Friday series takes place every Friday from 12-12:50 p.m. in the Student Center.

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