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UNC OB-GYN’s Division of Family Planning, along with the Carolina Population Center and Gillings School of Global Public Health, has received a grant to begin planning the N.C. Women’s Health Access Project.

The goal of the project is to generate evidence that will improve equitable access to contraception and abortion for women in North Carolina. Data will be collected and analyzed from women, health care providers and the public. Research and collection methods will be designed to provide insight into access and barriers women encounter to obtain clinical services at abortion clinics and other health centers that focus on contraception and/or sterilization.

Dr. Gretchen Stuart, chief of the Division of Family Planning, is co-principal investigator along with Dr. Sian Curtis, a biostatistician and demographer from the Carolina Population Center.

“Over the past three decades the number of counties performing abortions has declined considerably. The time is now to investigate this phenomenon and secure access for women all over the state seeking care,” said Dr. Stuart. “The unintended pregnancy rate in North Carolina is at 54 percent, and as of our latest data in 2011, the teen pregnancy rate is 53 out of 1,000.”

UNC is among fives sites chosen to participate in this project. “UNC is a great place for this research, with an outstanding reputation and standing in research when it comes to demographics, contraception and public health,” said Dr. Stuart.

The model follows the Texas Policy and Evaluation Project. The project’s collection of evidence and prompt dissemination led to numerous publications, as well as data that were crucial in the Whole Woman’s Health Supreme Court Decision (SCOTUS 15-274).

The planning portion of the project runs from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017. The multidisciplinary team at UNC will use that time to formalize and expand their network, finalize research questions and protocols and establish framework for rapid dissemination of research. The work of the study will take place over the next three-to-five years, upon which time the results will be released.

The source of the funding remains anonymous to direct attention toward the work of the project.