CDC Foundation and Partners Launch Zika Contraception Access Network (Z-CAN) for Women in Puerto Rico
As Zika virus continues its rapid spread throughout Puerto Rico and with mosquito season underway, the CDC Foundation announced today that the Zika Contraception Access Network (Z-CAN) (www.ZCANpr.org) is now operational. The Network is providing women in Puerto Rico with a full range of contraceptive options free of charge on the same day of their healthcare service. Z-CAN was established by the CDC Foundation to address an urgent need to improve contraception access in Puerto Rico during the Zika outbreak. The program gives women who want to delay or avoid pregnancy an effective means to do so, and the option to prevent the devastating, life-long consequences of severe birth defects Zika virus can cause.
With Zika virus and pregnancy, there are several primary prevention strategies, including eliminating mosquitoes in the environment, mosquito bite prevention and protecting pregnant women from sexual transmission of the Zika virus. However, an equally effective and safe strategy is providing access to contraception as a means of reducing Zika-related pregnancy complications in women who want to delay or avoid pregnancy during the Zika outbreak.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with other leading world public health authorities, Zika virus presents a serious risk for pregnancies. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly—a severe brain defect causing lifelong disability. Babies exposed to Zika prenatally have also been born with other birth defects, including eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth. In Puerto Rico, one of the hardest-hit areas, the situation for children and families is especially dire. On the island, an estimated 65 percent of all pregnancies are unintended, and an estimated 138,000 women of childbearing age are in need of effective contraception and counseling.
Through Z-CAN and with CDC’s help, the CDC Foundation aims to provide contraceptive access, information and counseling to tens of thousands of women in Puerto Rico within one year, but additional funding of $18 million is needed to achieve that goal. The CDC Foundation currently has funding to reach approximately 14,000 women in the territory.
The CDC Foundation announced plans for Z-CAN in May. Since the spring, the CDC Foundation has been working with a team of government, philanthropic and corporate partners in preparation for the launch of Z-CAN. To date, the team has trained approximately 100 physicians and 160 ancillary staff in Puerto Rico to counsel and provide a full range of contraception to women wanting to delay or avoid pregnancy during the Zika outbreak. In addition, the CDC Foundation team has secured contraceptive product donations, established a supply chain for distribution of contraceptive products across the island, as well as created a system to reimburse physicians.
For the Z-CAN effort, there is close coordination with the Puerto Rico Department of Health, the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration and relevant federal agencies. The Foundation has also secured large-scale donations and offers of contraceptive products and services from a variety of organizations, including Bayer, Allergan, Medicines360, Merck, Pfizer, Mylan, Teva Pharmaceuticals, RB, Trojan Brand Condoms, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and MarketVision. Initial funding for Z-CAN has been provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Pfizer Foundation. As a local non-profit organization that is dedicated to education and exchange of knowledge among healthcare providers, Puerto Rico Obstetrics & Gynecology (PROGyn) is a key implementing partner for the Z-CAN project. Trainings have been conducted with the Beyond the Pill Program at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine with a curriculum proven to reduce unintended pregnancy. In addition, Upstream USA provided in-kind support to train medical providers and support staff during the initial phase of this effort. The Puerto Rico Primary Care Association (PCA) has coordinated efforts to support community health centers on the island that are participating in the Z-CAN program.
“We are deeply grateful to all donors and partners who have stepped forward to support this prevention strategy and reduce the occurrence of devastating Zika-related birth defects,” said Judith A. Monroe, M.D., president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “Z-CAN is a comprehensive program that was developed and implemented in record time, but we urgently need additional funding to bring this program to scale and mitigate the negative consequences of the Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico.”
The CDC Foundation activated its U.S. Emergency Response Fund and Global Disaster Response Fund in February 2016 to assist CDC during the Zika response, as needed. Individual or business contributions to the CDC Foundation’s U.S. Emergency Response Fund and Global Disaster Response Fund can be made on the CDC Foundation’s website (www.cdcfoundation.org/zika-response). To discuss giving opportunities or an in-kind donation, contact Laura Angel at email@example.com. For the latest guidance and educational materials, visit www.cdc.gov/Zika.