Mercy Health in Paducah Distributing Feminine Hygiene Products to Local Schools
Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital in Paducah is launching a program to increase access to feminine hygiene products in local schools, and educate students about them.
Made possible by a grant from an internal community outreach fund, the hospital intends to use the program to distribute 1,000 period starter kits — each containing about three months' worth of feminine hygiene products, including pads, pantyliners, tampons and other toiletries — to patients of area OB-GYN practices while supplies last.
Mercy Health also plans to routinely replenish the Paducah Independent and McCracken County school systems with these kits alongside educational resources on feminine health from such local organizations as Hope Unlimited, LivWell, Child Watch and others.
“It was a resounding yes [from family resource workers] that this was a huge need, something that’s not talked about very often that could definitely have more resources and conversations around it in the schools,” said Leigh Ann Ballegeer, community health director for the hospital. “[Young women] didn’t have that level of education on what was happening with their bodies. They may not have had financial access to those feminine hygiene products.”
The program was born out of the OB-GYN team wanting to address what they identified as a common need among their patient population. They’ve so far given out feminine health information at back-to-school nights and after-school programs, something they plan to continue doing in the future.
Ballegeer said this program is crucial because menstrual and mental health are intrinsically linked.
“There’s so much anxiety and missing school. It affects girls’ relationships and social interactions,” she said. “Our provider team and OB-GYN, their goal from the beginning was to turn the shame and fear around this issue into empowerment.”