Reaching Out to Improve Preconception Health in American Samoa
Our Begins With Me outreach has made us better as a program!
Poumona Lauoletolo, Family Planning Health Educator, American Samoa Family Planning Program
During the 2016 Zika outbreak, the American Samoa Family Planning Program (ASFPP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted focus groups about reducing adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes. Focus group participants who said they were looking forward to starting a family also noted that they wanted to become healthier before having children. They said that being healthy would enable them to create a better future for themselves, their families, and their community.
The ASFPP’s Begins With Me outreach program grew from these focus groups and derives its name from a participant who said, “My healthy family begins with me.” Through Begins With Me, ASFPP staff visit community spaces, like churches, and educate women and men about the importance of preconception health. They provide information about reproductive health services, including contraceptive and basic infertility services, and other services that can enhance both preconception health and general health, such as treatment for chronic diseases and screening for sexually transmitted diseases and breast and cervical cancers. Poumona Lauoletolo, an ASFPP health educator, says, “Begins with Me is a win-win. We have improved our health education skills and the community receives information and access to services.”
ASFPP staff also visit schools to educate adolescents about their health and services that can support their health goals. Dr. Ianeta Timoteo, ASFPP Project Director, has demonstrated the value of Begins With Me to community leaders by showing the decline in teen pregnancy since they began. Dr. Timoteo says, “More men are coming in now, and adolescents in the community stop to talk with us about the services. People ask us to speak openly because we are an avenue toward health.”