Researchers find misinformation about emergency contraception common in low-income neighborhoods

December 19, 2011

Boston - Researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that in low-income neighborhoods, misinformation about access to emergency contraception is a common occurrence. These findings appear as a research letter in the Dec. 19 on-line issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration facilitated access to emergency contraception among adolescents by making it available over-the-counter to individuals age 17 years and older.

From September to December 2010, female research assistants posing as adolescents who recently had unprotected intercourse were randomly assigned to call every commercial pharmacy in Nashville, Tenn.; Philadelphia; Cleveland; Austin, Texas; and Portland, Ore. Cities were chosen in geographically diverse states without pharmacy access laws that supersede uniform federal regulations. Callers followed standardized scripts to simulate real-world calls and elicit specific information on emergency contraception availability and access.

Researchers then examined same-day availability of emergency contraception, (regardless of reason), whether emergency contraception could be accessed by the caller, and whether the pharmacy communicated the correct age at which emergency contraception was accessible over-the-counter.

Although the researchers found the availability of emergency contraception did not differ based on neighborhood income, in 19 percent of calls the adolescent was told she could not obtain emergency contraception under any circumstance. This misinformation occurred more often (23.7 percent compared to 14.6 percent) among pharmacies in low-income neighborhoods.

When callers queried the age threshold for over-the-counter access, they were given the correct age less often by pharmacies in low-income neighborhoods (50.0 percent compared to 62.8 percent). In all but 11 calls, the incorrect age was stated as erroneously too high, potentially restricting access.

"Even though we found approximately 80 percent same-day availability of emergency contraception in these metropolitan cities, misinformation regarding access was common-particularly in low-income neighborhoods," said lead author Tracey Wilkinson, MD, MPH, a Fellow in the Division of General Pediatrics pediatrician at BMC/BUSM.

While the study design did not determine why disparities in access to emergency contraception exists, the researcher believes possible explanations include differences in pharmacy staffing or training, frequency of requests for information or organizational cultures around customer service. "Our study assessed only telephone calling and not in-person visits. Despite this limitation, the finding that misinformation regarding emergency contraception access is more common in neighborhoods with the highest teen pregnancy rates suggests that targeted consumer or provider education for consumers and pharmacy staff may be necessary," she said. "We look forward to working with various companies, organizations and pharmacy staff to improve education regarding current regulations on emergency contraception access."
-end-
Funding for this study was provided by the Joel and Barbara Alpert Endowment for the Children of the City and Boston University School of Medicine.

Boston University Medical Center

Related Adolescents Articles from Brightsurf:

Differences in well-being amongst Somali, Latino and Hmong adolescents
U of M School of Nursing researchers found that acculturation was positively associated with substance use and negatively with academic achievement in adolescence.

Nicotine vapour more rewarding for adolescents than adults
University of Guelph researchers are the first to discover that adolescents react differently to e-cigarette vapour than adults.

Interest in quitting vaping among adolescents
Adolescents using electronic cigarettes were asked if they had seriously thought about or tried to quit vaping.

New guidelines for children and adolescents with T2D
A team of paediatric specialists, including an expert from the University of Adelaide, has produced new guidelines regarding assessment and management of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in Australian and New Zealand children and adolescents.

What influences adolescents to continuously use e-cigarettes?
In a Public Health Nursing study of adolescents who have used e-cigarettes in the past month, certain factors were associated with frequent use.

Fertility preservation use among transgender adolescents
Transgender adolescents often seek hormonal intervention to achieve a body consistent with their gender identity and those interventions affect reproductive function.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Migraine prevention in children and adolescents
Two medicines already used to prevent migraine in adults also showed efficacy in adolescents with migraine.

Smoking cessation treatment targets adolescents
The primary focus of smoking cessation research has been adults in the past, but a new study in JAMA Pediatrics zeroed in on adolescents.

Patterns of substance use and co-use by adolescents
Using in-depth interviews with adolescents (16-19 years of age) who used alcohol and marijuana, this study examines the role that social and physical contexts play in adolescent decision-making about simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana.

Read More: Adolescents News and Adolescents Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.