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MARION COUNTY, Ind. — From 2014 to 2016, researchers at the Regenstrief Institute looked at how many pregnant women in Marion County get screened for syphilis. What researchers found was there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to which women get screened.

Dr. Brian Dixon is the Director of Public Health Informatics at the Regenstrief Institute. His team’s study found that only 1 out of 10 women are not screened for syphilis during their pregnancy. But Dr. Dixon’s research also found something else.

“This was sort of, you know, kind of eye opening for public health,” Dr. Dixon explains, “because they only used data from Medicaid.”

That Medicaid data only tells part of the story. It excludes the possibility of collecting info about other women with different backgrounds and different financial histories.

Dr. Dixon explains further, “our study was really the first one to look at women with commercial insurance, women with Medicaid insurance, other types of insurance, some who didn’t even have insurance, and look at whether they received screenings.”

“And that’s one of the interesting findings from our study,” says Dr. Dixon, “[is] that we actually found that women with commercial insurance, so these would be probably women who either work themselves or women who are on a plan with a spouse or partner, and we found they had a lower screening rate than those on Medicaid.”

This leaves unscreened pregnant women at a greater risk. They could have syphilis and not know it, which could spread to the baby. That’s called congenital syphilis.

Dr. Dixon’s team also found that younger women tend to be screened at higher rates, as do Black and Hispanic women.

“The recommendation is not, you know, only low income women should be screened, or only women in certain zip codes be screened, it really is every woman should be screened,” says Dr. Dixon.

Dr. Dixon says if you or someone you know become pregnant, make sure you ask for your syphilis screenings. He says you need to make sure you have prenatal care and are in touch with a health care provider throughout your pregnancy. Dr. Dixon also says you should always ask for all of your recommended screenings. You’re entitled to them, says Dr. Dixon.

Full interview with Dr. Dixon here: