Sunday is Mother’s Day — and it’s also the start of Women’s Health Week. But today, Community Health Services will get an early start celebrating the spirit of the week as a participant in La Clinica del Pueblo/The People’s Clinic and the 9Health:365 spring health fair at Glenwood Springs High School from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
CHS, alongside with other health providers, will be available to provide breast and cervical cancer education information and connect attendees to their Women’s Wellness Connection free cancer screening program. Taking a proactive, preventive approach to one’s health by staying on top of regularly scheduled wellness checks and cancer screenings can literally be the difference between life and death.
Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among females in Colorado, killing more than 600 women annually, according to a CHS news release. When breast cancer is detected early, however, 98% of those diagnosed survive at least five years. Similarly, when cervical and colorectal cancers are diagnosed early, 94% and 91% of women survive at least five years, respectively.
The nonprofit celebrated its 51st anniversary on May 1. It first started as the Aspen Valley Visiting Nurses Association in 1971, a few years after Aspen lost its only public-service nurse in 1969. By 1978 — just five years after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision from the U.S. Supreme Court protected a pregnant woman’s right to access an abortion as a constitutional one — AVVNA was working as a Title X Family Planning Clinic in Pitkin County, ensuring anyone regardless of their medical insurance or lack thereof had access to contraceptives and reproductive health services. In the 1980s, when AVVNA became Community Health Services, it was the only clinic in the county providing such services — including confidential screenings for HIV and other STDs.
It’s a history that current CHS leadership remains proud to continue: “Title X supports a wide range of services, from contraceptive services and supplies to breast and cervical cancer screenings to STI testing, education, and treatment for individuals from Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield County,” the CHS release emphasizes. In 2020, 66% of people receiving Title X-supported services had incomes at or below the federal poverty level and 39% were uninsured.
“A lot of these women are the backbone in our community. They deserve just as anyone else access to medical care and family planning — women’s health, family planning, prevention and cancer-screening programs,” said Dr. Kim Levin, an emergency physician with both Aspen Valley Hospital and Valley View Hospital who serves on the CHS board of directors.
CHS Executive Director Logan Hood agrees.
“Health is a basic human right; it is the right of every person to have what they need to be happy and healthy. Community Health Services is committed to prioritizing access to reproductive and family planning programs regardless of the political climate,” she said. “Our role is also to be a trusted provider that can call attention and disrupt systems that keep health out of the reach of folks with less power, privilege or income.”
The political climate regarding reproductive health has come into the limelight in the United States again, especially as of last Monday, when Justice Samuel Alito’s 98-page draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked, making national headlines.
“If this is the final decision, it will have a horrific impact on people’s lives, autonomy and health, and be acutely felt by people with low incomes,” Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement.
NFPRHA is a membership organization representing publicly funded family planning providers such as CHS.
“Attempts to restrict individuals from accessing preventive health programs or limit the ability of providers to offer the best care for their clients puts the public’s health at risk and undermines the integrity of programs like ours,” Hood said.
Research — spanning decades and from government agencies such as the National Institute of Health to medical journals to academic institutions and think tanks — shows that access to publicly funded family planning reduces child mortality as well as child poverty. One 2019 paper (Does Access to Family Planning Increase Children’s Opportunities? Evidence form the War on Poverty and the Early Years of Title X) published in the National Library of Medicine that examined the early days of the Title X program found “children born after programs began had 2.8% higher household incomes. They were also 7% less likely to live in poverty and 12% less likely to live in households receiving public assistance.”
Levin noted that CHS’s funding isn’t entirely through grants but also individual donors.
“CHS provides a critical service to women in our community who are underserved or uninsured and for 50 years now has created that safety net,” she said. “Now more than ever, it is important for us all to support this vital organization given our current political and economic climate.”
More information about Community Health Services is available at aspencommunityhealthservices.org.