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To the Editor: Why Miami needs to expand healthcare access for female students

Miami University, like many universities, faces a constant struggle to meet the needs of students and faculty alike. Mental health has recently been an area that Miami has faced pressure to address, and today I would like to introduce another -- women's access to health care.

The student health center on campus does offer specific women's health-related services -- there is one OB/GYN nurse practitioner available during regular business hours. To clarify, this means that there is one nurse practitioner available to serve the approximately 8,000 women that attend Miami with any women-centric health needs, including birth control, sexually transmitted infections and abortion or prenatal referrals. The nurse practitioner is unable to meet with students who do not have an appointment, and is limited in her ability to provide services to the women at Miami.

The nurse practitioner at Miami is not able to prescribe any sort of IUD birth control to students, nor can she provide abortive services or prenatal services. She also cannot prescribe HRT to students.

Statistically, women between the ages of 20 and 24 are the most likely to seek abortive services and seek prenatal care. Similarly, 88 percent of women use birth control at some point in their lives. College-aged women clearly need access to these healthcare services in order to make healthy reproductive choices.

Compounding this issue on Miami's campus is the fact that Oxford does not have other women's healthcare options available. There is one practicing OB/GYN in Oxford, and his office will not see students without a referral from the Student Health Center. For example, if a woman at Miami decides that she wants to get an IUD, she must first make an appointment with the nurse practitioner through Student Health Services, get a referral to the Oxford clinic, make an appointment through the clinic and hopefully receive an IUD there.

If the student uses Miami health insurance, she hopefully is able to afford the Oxford clinic rates, seeing as they do not accept Miami insurance. This difficult process can discourage women from seeking the care that would best benefit them.

Students seeking gynecologic care for STIs through the Student Health Center are also put into a difficult position. They must make an appointment, hoping that a timely slot that fits into their class and work schedule will be available. It has been proven that easily accessible health care greatly increases the chances of college-aged students seeking medical care.

The current system of OB/GYN care through the Health Center puts the onus on students to squeeze health services into their busy schedules. Along with scheduling issues, the problem worsens with the fact that there is only one nurse practitioner available to see women.

As a woman at Miami, it is important for me to reach out and advocate for increased health care access. Miami has taken steps in the last year to improve health care, but continues to neglect the issue of availability of OB/GYN services.

Associated Student Government (ASG) has shown that it is willing to work with the university to increase access to healthcare, but the university needs to see continued pressure from the students to realize that we are serious about continuing to increase access to health care. It is on each and every one of us to continue to reach out to our ASG senators and Student Health Center administration with our concerns about women's access to health care.

Being aware of this issue is the first step in pushing for change. If you are lucky enough to have never had cause to see a women's health professional at Miami, it is easy to forget that such care is difficult to access. Students need to continue this awareness by talking about it with friends and classmates -- the more people that are aware of the issues, the more weight they will hold.

Another step that can be taken is to reach out to your ASG representative. Send them an email letting them know your concern, and tell them you want to see change within the health center. Senators want to work with you, and to know what you would like to see happen at Miami. They are a wonderful resource, and letting them hear your voice is important.

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If you're feeling fired up, reach out to Miami administration as well. Reach out to the health center with your concerns. The more that the health center hears from students, the more that they know we are looking for change. Let President Crawford know that this is something on your mind, and that health care for women needs to be taken seriously at Miami.

Don't be afraid to stand up for something that you care about and let Miami know that our healthcare system for women needs to change.