Clinical and social care providers in the United States receive little or no formal training to care for women and girls affected by FGM/C. Provider unpreparedness can lead to poor patient outcomes, such as neglect, or mismanagement of problems related to FGM/C, and can discourage patients from seeking care.
We surveyed medical providers (students, residents, and clinicians) in the Philadelphia region and found that while nearly two-thirds had encountered FGM/C at least once, less than 14% had received formal training in FGM/C care. Thus, provider education is a key priority of PIWP. Our team offers lectures and workshops to multidisciplinary professionals on a range of core competencies related to FGM/C care, including cultural sensitivity, legal considerations, and prevention.
Drexel University Women’s Care Center (WCC) provides evidence-based gynecology, obstetrics, preventive care, and family planning services to a diverse, minority, and under-served population in Philadelphia. As the clinical home of PIWP, WCC delivers community-informed, culturally sensitive care to women and girls affected by FGM/C. Under the leadership of Dr. Sandra Wolf, Medical Director, and Dr. Jasjit Beausang, PIWP clients receive the full spectrum of reproductive health services regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. As part of a client-centered, holistic approach to wellness, each PIWP client meets with a full care team including the lead clinician, Peer Specialist, and resident-in-training.
PEER SUPPORT SERVICES
Peer-to-peer support is the cornerstone of PIWP’s success. Trained, culturally and linguistically congruent Peer Specialists based at African Family Health Organization (AFAHO) conduct outreach and education to diverse communities affected by FGM/C. Peer Specialists work to address the complex individual, interpersonal, community, and structural barriers imposed by the practice of FGM/C, ultimately breaking down powerful social stigmas. Providing integrated, culturally sensitive support, Peer Specialists connect clients to key clinical and social resources to support each woman’s journey, including educational support groups and group-based sex therapy. Peer Specialists also provide medical accompaniment to the WCC clinic, serving as language interpreters and cultural brokers between clients and clinicians. Peer support empowers clients to overcome the silence surrounding FGM/C and achieve their wellness goals. fostering a new culture of community health.
A FOCUS ON SEXUAL HEALTH
FGM/C can have a significant impact on sexual health and functioning. Pain, diminished desire, and inhibited sexual response are pervasive complaints. Women often feel that “something was taken away” from them and wonder if they can get it back. In response to these concerns, PIWP offers group-based sex therapy to affected women. Sex therapy groups are led by a licensed practitioner and give women the space to explore their questions and experiences among the safety of their peers, ultimately decreasing stress and optimizing well-being. There are currently two groups that meet on a monthly basis, one for West African clients and the other for Sudanese clients.