Family planning clinic services in the United States: patterns and trends in the late 1990s

J J Frost, N Ranjit, K Manzella, J E Darroch, S Audam
Family Planning Perspectives 2001, 33 (3): 113-22

CONTEXT: Publicly funded family planning clinics are a vital source of contraceptive and reproductive health care for millions of U.S. women. It is important periodically to assess the number and type of clinics and the number of contraceptive clients they serve.

METHODS: Service data were requested for agencies and clinics providing publicly funded family planning services in the United States in 1997. The numbers of agencies, clinics and female contraceptive clients were tabulated according to various characteristics and were compared with similar data for 1994. Finally, county data were tabulated according to the presence of family planning clinics and private physicians likely to provide family planning care and according to the number of female contraceptive clients served compared with the number of women needing publicly funded care.

RESULTS: In 1997, 3,117 agencies offered publicly funded contraceptive services at 7,206 clinic sites. Forty percent of clinics were run by health departments, 21% by community health centers, 13% by Planned Parenthood affiliates and 26% by hospitals or other agencies. Overall, 59% of clinics received Title X funding. Agencies operated an average of 2.3 clinics, and clinics served an average of 910 contraceptive clients per year. Altogether, clinics provided contraceptive services to 6.6 million women-approximately two of every five women estimated to need publicly funded contraceptive care. The total number of providers and the total number of women served remained stable between 1994 and 1997; at the local level, however, clinic turnover was high. Some 85% of all US counties had one or more publicly funded family planning clinics; 36% had one or more clinics, but no private obstetrician-gynecologist.

CONCLUSIONS: Publicly funded family planning clinics are distributed widely throughout the United States and continue to provide contraceptive care to millions of US women. Clinics are sometimes the only source of specialized family planning care available to women in rural counties. However, the high rate of clinic tumover and the lack of significant growth in clinic numbers suggest that limited funding and rising costs have hindered the further expansion and outreach of the clinic network to new geographic areas and hard-to-reach populations.

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