New network to boost access to long-acting contraception and early medical abortion in primary care

The NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women in Primary Care (SPHERE) has launched a ground-breaking Australian-first online network that aims to increase Australian women’s access to long-acting contraception and early medical abortion in primary care.

The network, called the Australian Contraception and Abortion Primary Care Practitioner Support Network (AusCAPPS), is accessible to all Australian general practitioners and GP registrars, practice nurses and community pharmacists.

With a focus on supporting practitioners to provide long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) and early medical abortion (EMA), the AusCAPPS network features a range of resources and tools to users of the network, including:

  • The capacity to “ask the expert”
  • A forum in which clinicians can discuss case studies and post clinical or practice questions
  • The capacity to link with other local practitioners through a database of regional LARC and EMA providers
  • A resource library with checklists, guidance and patient information
  • Access to training, education and clinical skill-building opportunities
  • Keeping up to date with Australian LARC and EMA news, events and research

LARC uptake in Australian women remains low, despite its safety, efficacy, and appropriateness for women of all ages. Similarly, medical abortion (using mifepristone followed by misoprostol to end an early pregnancy up to 9 weeks) is yet to be fully integrated into Australian general practice, and can be especially challenging to access for women in rural and remote areas.

Professor Danielle Mazza, Chief Investigator and Director of SPHERE, which is based at Monash University, described the AusCAPPS launch as a significant step forward in improving Australian women’s sexual health outcomes.

“Lack of familiarity with intrauterine devices and implants among health professionals and misperceptions about their use limit women’s options. It can be difficult for GPs and other health professionals to get training in LARC and lack of support following training (e.g. supervision, mentoring) are also real issues,” Professor Mazza said.

“Without adequate numbers of practitioners who are confident in providing LARC and EMA, especially in regional and rural primary care settings, women find it very difficult to access these essential services, significantly increasing wait times, travel and costs, and putting women at risk of unintended pregnancy in the interim.”

“Through this project, we want to change the landscape for Australian women seeking contraception and abortion, and dramatically increase the availability of these services in the settings where women are most likely to seek them out- their local GP and community pharmacy.”

Preventing unintended pregnancies is an important public health imperative and a key focus of Australia’s National Women's Health Strategy. One-third of Australian women experience an unintended pregnancy in their lifetime, with rates of unintended pregnancy disproportionately higher among the socio-demographically disadvantaged and those living in rural areas. 30.4% of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, and those resulting in a live birth have poorer outcomes for mother and child, adversely affecting the social and financial wellbeing of women and their families.

AusCAPPS is supported by an extensive partner and advisory network that includes The University of British Columbia, The University of Sydney, La Trobe University, Family Planning NSW, The University of Sydney, Marie Stopes Australia, the Centre of Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, and others.

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