We love being able to share our board member stories to provide a window into our organization and why we all feel passionately about LARC, our patients, and our mission. Without further ado, meet Erica Lyon, CCE, MPH! She’s a published author (The Big Book of Birth), a health educator, and a maternal child health and parenting expert. This multi-hyphenate is our interim president who has been on the board for more than three years now, from the point when A Step Ahead was first getting started in East Tennessee. Given her background in maternal child health, it was a perfect fit. Learn more about Erica and her passion for our mission and vision in her own words.
To date, LARCs are one of the best birth control options to be developed. I am a big believer in equalizing health opportunity and creating equity in life’s playing field. Not every female gets the same chances or support in life and when it comes to carrying the cost of reproduction I have seen too many times in my career how simple timing of a pregnancy, or cost of birth control, or lack of access to healthcare affects newborn and maternal outcomes. Every parent deserves the joy of a supported pregnancy and parenting experience; birth control access is a key to healthy babies and moms. I will always be an advocate for mothers to have what they need because if we take care of mothers, we take care of babies. This means taking care of women before they become mothers, too.
I originally joined the education committee, as I am a huge believer in people having solid information and support to make decisions by. I don’t want to make peoples decisions for them-I want them to take responsibility for their own decisions by having the full information and support to do so. One thing I really want to achieve is uniting the community around this service. There is so much division, misunderstanding and polarization around women’s health right now. The reality is preventing unwanted or mistimed pregnancy, in the narrow focus we provide, is a point of unification and healthy focus for everyone. Following reproductive justice concepts of support for all women is the way forward. We are doing one small thing -in the whole spectrum of what can be done-that is powerful for women’s health and that everyone can agree on.
Most people do not realize how many barriers there are for women to get effective safe birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Things that most folks take for granted are serious barriers to health care for many.
For example, privacy in rural areas is a problem. If you are a 19-year-old working after high school but were raised in heavily religious environment, you may not want anyone seeing you go to the local health clinic as you may see someone you know.
Distance is an issue if one person in a relationship needs the car for work and the other can’t get to a health care provider. Distance is shown to even just be a psychological barrier.
Cost is serious problem as LARCs, while being cheapest long term, can have significant upfront cost for most-a few hundred out of pocket is a real barrier for many East Tennesseans. Cost can be barrier just because someone doesn’t know what their benefits include. We have many clients that are actually eligible for free birth control via their benefits, but they don’t know.
Once they hear from us, they can get free birth control, the psychological barrier is gone and then it turns out they could have gotten for free all along. We facilitate access in many ways whether it be transportation, privacy, cost, literacy level, or psychological barriers.
Basic information is an issue as there are many false perceptions about how LARC works and how safe and effective it is. A key point in this is that women focused interventions are one of the few we know that are effective long term.
My long-term goal with this organization is that we can see significant drops in the NAS rates in our area as a result of our hard work. NAS babies are taking a huge toll on families and the community at large and will need extensive financial and physiological support and resources. We need to focus on prevention for the benefit of our whole state economy. I think the missing piece in our states focus on education; which is great-is that there is a second "leg" to supporting a strong economy. People must be healthy. Once you have a healthy educated population you are unstoppable. I am a true believer that all of us are interconnected in our functioning in society-like a human chain- and that all of us are only as strong as the weakest link in that chain of existence.
There are so many ways to help. If you work in a facility where your staff or client base needs to know about us, have us come do an education session or training. If you can be a Founding member and pledge at a Founders level for 4 years this gives us an ability to serve more women. If you can’t financially contribute at that level, then becoming small donor is vital to our continued service. Helping us table at events or helping us reach anyone who may benefit from our service is good. Providers can help by contracting with us to provide services in ways that meet the needs of financially challenged or at-risk populations.
Imagine your donation money of $300 concretely changing someone's life for the better for five years just by buying them time to grow and learn? It is a very practical tangible intervention that really works and as we see from multiple studies throughout our country and around the world.