Women's reproductive health issues drive Foundation work

David Rowan, Founder, Alex Rowan Foundation

From the Founder’s Desk

In the 10 years since the Rowan Foundation was formed, the organization has worked to assemble and share information that could help to save lives lost due to preventable blood clots. Specifically, we have been committed to helping women understand the blood clot risks they face throughout their lifetime, with an emphasis on the role estrogen can play in contributing to an increased risk for clotting.

Our work is rooted in the experience of our namesake: Alexandra Rowan. Alex lost her life suddenly to a blood clot in her lung when she was just 23 years old. Her only known risk at the time was her use of hormonal contraception.

During the past decade, the Rowan Foundation has invested more than $1 million into a spectrum of public awareness and education programs designed to help women gain access to important information they need to know about their health and potential clotting risks.

Always central to our work is our focus on helping women make fully informed decisions as they consider their contraception options. We have created a suite of resources focused on this topic, and we are dedicated to ensuring that women have a full understanding of the potential health impacts of their contraception decision-making.

Recent Trends

As the Foundation’s work has progressed in this clinical space over the years, we’ve seen several important trends emerge:

  • Pharmacist Prescribed Contraception. Currently, in 24 states, and also in Washington, D.C., pharmacists can prescribe and dispense hormonal birth control, including the pill, patch, ring, and shot. This authority is granted to pharmacists through either statewide protocols, state standing orders, or collaborative practice agreements with supervising physicians.

Two different points of view exist in light of this growing trend: Some people consider pharmacist-prescribed contraception ill-advised, because in some cases it alleviates the physician and medical exam from the prescribing process, possibly widening contraception use without physician involvement. Conversely, others view it as a positive development, because it breaks down certain barriers to access, and also because in all cases pharmacists are required to conduct a thorough risk assessment for a broad spectrum of potential health issues or risk factors, including risks for blood clots. These are risk assessments that some experts suggest physicians do not uniformly perform, but that are now required in all cases of pharmacist prescribed contraception. Regardless of which point of view one might hold, pharmacist prescribed contraception is poised for expansion to other states, underscoring the need to address any gaps in health information about contraception that could emerge as this trend continues.

  • Increased Attention to Health Impacts. In recent years, we’ve seen a growing understanding about the side effects or potential health risks that estrogen-based contraception might pose, including serious cardiovascular risks like heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. In fact, it appears that a rising number of Gen Z women (born between 1997 and 2012) are giving greater consideration to what they consume and how what they consume can impact their physical and mental health.

While earlier generations of women wholly embraced the liberation of their lifestyle and reproductive rights afforded by “the pill,” women today are applying greater rigor in the decision-making process surrounding birth control as they explore new and, at times, more natural forms of contraception.

This trend toward greater scrutiny or skepticism about hormonal birth control is not a signal that women are willing to give up the freedom and flexibility provided by “the pill.” Rather, it is a signal that women are increasingly unwilling to trade their good health for methods of contraception that do not meet their specific personal and medical needs, and that comprehensive information about contraception will become increasingly important among a more discerning generation of women.

  • Emerging Challenges to Reproductive Rights. As challenges to women’s reproductive rights overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, and as this debate continues at the state and federal levels, the role of contraception will take on greater significance in women’s lives, making it crucial for women to have access to comprehensive information about all of their birth control options.

Each of the trends noted here point to the growing importance of information and awareness related to contraception options and contraception choice. Birth control is a woman’s choice, and our goal is to ensure that they have all the information they need to make a decision that meets their specific needs – a decision that is both effective and safe. This makes the work of the Rowan Foundation, and our efforts to share information about contraception decision-making, more important than ever before.

Looking Ahead

As our awareness activities continue, our fundamental focus will remain, but we also will be looking to expand our efforts with new initiatives to further the impact of our work. For example, we seek to bring greater attention to the potential role direct-to-consumer genetic testing could play in helping women identify their personal healthcare needs and clotting risks as they consider their contraception options. Also, we see an opportunity for improved dialogue about contraception between women and their healthcare providers, which is a concept we will be exploring with experts in this field moving forward.

We hope to harness opportunities like these to further contribute to a reduction in the number of lives lost – the number of friends, daughters, sisters, wives, mothers lost – due to preventable blood clots. We encourage you to share the Foundation’s resources with all of the women in your life, and we look forward to increasing our connections within the community to gain your input and support of our mission-driven work.

To learn more about the Rowan Foundation, click here.

To learn more about David Rowan’s daughter Alexandra, click here.

You can donate to support the mission of the Rowan Foundation here.