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Angele Kirk (Photo courtesy of Planned Parenthood Columbia-Williamette)
Angele Kirk
Published: 07 February 2024

Repairing historic harm begins with trust — because we know that when Black women thrive, we all thrive.

In honor of Black History Month, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette (PPCW) is committed to centering health equity for Black women.

PPCW comes to this work humbly, fully recognizing that Black women’s health experiences and pain are too often dismissed or ignored by health care providers, which can contribute to staggering and avoidable health outcomes. Today, maternal mortality rates for Black women are 2 to 3 times higher than rates for their white and Latina counterparts. We are working to be a crucial health care partner in reducing these statistics by ensuring that our patients are informed so they can make the best health decisions for themselves.

In my 22 years at the Salem health center, I am proud to work with an incredible team that focuses on creating a more equitable health care future — one patient visit at a time. Recently, I received a note from a Salem patient that said this:

"Wow, I came in very stressed and concerned about some symptoms, but the lovely staff and top-notch care really put me at ease. I felt very cared for, received a reduced payment because of my income, which was also really supportive, and just generally had a great experience with not-so-great reasons for coming in. That says a lot that the staff turned it around! So grateful for this resource that is Planned Parenthood, thanks for being here."

This is the experience we strive to provide at Planned Parenthood. Every day, clinicians and staff work hard to provide welcoming, trustworthy health care spaces, where providers take the time to understand without judgment what circumstances bring a patient to a visit and how best to provide quality care.

As the largest nonprofit of sexual and reproductive health care and education programs in Oregon and SW Washington, PPCW recognizes the role that we play in supporting Black patients ’access to health care, which is why we have expanded several programs in the past few years:

  • We have hired four patient navigators to help our highest-need patients navigate getting the abortion and gender-affirming care resources they need most.
  • There are funding resources that can help people pay for visits, with or without insurance and regardless of immigration status.
  • And we honor the resilience and importance of Black women’s lives by working closely with grassroots, POC-led partner organizations to support health care and education goals within our communities.

Building equitable health care entails listening to Black women. We know that if we center the patients whose experiences and pain have been too often dismissed and ignored, we can be a part of building a better health care future — for everyone.

 

Angele Kirk is the Salem Health Center Manager for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. She studied sociology at Western Oregon University and lives with her husband and teenage daughter near Salem.

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