Reagan Weger suffers from constant severe pain as a result of primary vestibulodynia and vaginismus, chronic pain conditions that often leave women struggling to find proper care. The Dell Medical School aims to alleviate the burdens of women like Weger through their initiative to redesign women’s health care within its Department of Women’s Health.
“What’s shocking is that I’ve been to so many doctors for this condition, and more than half of them haven’t heard of it,” said Weger radio-television-film and rhetoric and writing sophomore. “Being a woman and having pain is such an unfortunate experience, because we’re often told that our pain isn’t real, that it’s a result of being stressed or hormonal or that we’re faking it.”
Dell Medical’s redesign of women’s health care in Travis County began in April 2016, and efforts are currently being expanded from prenatal care to include assisting women with chronic conditions. It includes a partnership between Dell, Central Health, CommUnity Care, Seton Healthcare Family and St. David’s Health Care.
Rebecca Rogers, associate chair of clinical integration and operations chair at the Department of Women’s Health, said chronic pain conditions are one of many women’s health issues being addressed in the redesign.
“Those (chronic) conditions, while not necessarily life-threatening, really affect a woman’s ability to lead a happy life and work,” Rogers said. “By that redesign of the care for those conditions, we should be able to care for more people, which hopefully (results) in better lives.”
This redesign of women’s health care is particularly important for pregnant women from low-income or uninsured backgrounds, said Jessica Caldwell, director of operations and strategy for the Department of Women’s Health.
“Women have better access to the right level of care at the right time earlier in their pregnancy, leading to better outcomes and lower costs,” Caldwell said. “These changes enhance community-based prenatal care services for all women.”
There are already indications that the redesign is working, Caldwell said. For example, every woman who is a part of the redesign is scheduled for a postpartum appointment, and 79 percent of those appointments have been kept.
“My goal is to ensure that women can receive the care they need for the full spectrum of needs they will face over the course of their lives,” Caldwell said. “That care should always be built around the people and patients who need it.”