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Knowledge and Awareness of Oregon's Paid Family and Medical Leave Law Among Postpartum Latinas

Dr. Julia Goodman is an Associate Professor in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health

Research Spotlight: Julia Goodman

Dr. Julia Goodman is an Associate Professor in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. Dr. Goodman’s research examines inequities attributed to work-related social determinants of health among pregnant people. Through her interdisciplinary research, she explores how work-related policies, such as paid family leave, impact health and health equity, as well as potential spillover into the broader workplace. She draws on multiple methods to conduct timely, policy-relevant research that informs ongoing policy discussions.

Q: What is the name of the research project in public health that you are working on?

A: Knowledge and Awareness of Oregon’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Law Among Postpartum Latinas.

Oregon is the latest US state to implement a paid family and medical leave (PFML) program. PFML has been tied to improved health outcomes for workers and their families, but awareness and adoption in other states has been limited and unequal. In particular, Latin, immigrant, and low-income workers are less likely than other workers to be aware of state paid leave programs or to report having access to PFML. Paid Leave Oregon, which began distributing benefits in September, provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave to workers who need time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one, recover from their own serious health condition, or to address concerns around sexual assault, domestic violence, harassment, or stalking. Paid Leave Oregon was designed to be as inclusive and comprehensive as possible in order to reach all workers across the state.

The goal of our project is to qualitatively explore to what extent postpartum Latinas receiving care at a federally qualified and migrant health center in Oregon; are aware of and understand the new law; what barriers to take up they perceive; and what strategies that could be implemented within healthcare settings would help them utilize their paid leave benefits. We are wrapping up data collection, having just conducted a series of in-depth interviews with Latinas who have recently given birth and were employed in Oregon at some point during their pregnancy.

Q: Did you partner with any fellow researchers or organizations?

This project is a collaboration with Associate Dean of Academic and Faculty Affairs, Dawn Richardson, HS&P PhD student Lisset Dumet Poma, CH PhD alum, current OCHIN investigator Anna Steeves-Reece, and Will Dow from UC Berkeley. We are partnering with One Community Health, a federally qualified and migrant health center with sites in Hood River and The Dalles.

Q: How does the work in Oregon’s paid family and medical leave law impact public health?

A growing body of evidence links paid family and medical leave (PFML) with decreased low birthweight births and infant mortality, increased breastfeeding, improved maternal mental health, improved self-rated health, and increased postpartum care attendance. It also provides income support for people taking time away from work and may buffer against the impact of serious health conditions and caregiving needs on entry into poverty.

Q: What aspects about this research are you particularly enthusiastic about?

I am excited about the opportunity to hear directly from people who could use our new paid leave program and how it could better work for them. The results of this project are highly actionable – we can feed what we learn right back to the healthcare setting where patients were recruited, providing clinic staff with tools to support patients needing to take leave.

Q: What can we take away or learn from your research in this area?

It’s still too early for results or takeaways, but from other projects we’ve done in other settings, a big takeaway has been that passing a law is not enough. We need to dedicate time and resources to making sure people know about, understand, and have the tools necessary to utilize the policy. Targeted, customized outreach and support through multiple channels is critical.

Q: How does the work in this paid family and medical leave impact the Oregon or Pacific Northwest Community?

We hope to better understand what different communities across Oregon, the PNW, and nationally need in order to fully realize the benefits of paid family and medical leave laws as they gain traction across the country.