DAVID GREENE, HOST:
In Miami, Planned Parenthood has been helping in the fight against the Zika virus, sometimes getting the word out in neighborhoods where people have never even heard of Zika. But as NPR's Greg Allen reports, Planned Parenthood's involvement does give these efforts a political backdrop.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Lenroy Watt is one of about a dozen Planned Parenthood workers knocking on doors in Miami neighborhoods like Hialeah, Liberty City and on this day, Little Haiti.
LENROY WATT: Good afternoon. My name is Lenroy. We're in the area sharing information about the Zika virus.
ALLEN: Like many in this neighborhood, Jean Baptiste is a newcomer from Haiti. She lives in an apartment with her father and several other people. She tells Watt she hadn't heard about Zika.
WATT: You're not aware of it? All right, not a problem. So it's a good thing that we're here today then.
ALLEN: Watt talks to Baptiste about the disease and leaves information in Creole, including phone numbers for mosquito control and county health offices where free tests are available for pregnant women. In the weeks since local Zika transmission was confirmed in a nearby neighborhood, Wynwood, mosquito control has conducted intensive spraying, and health workers have gone door to door there testing residents for the virus. But just blocks away in Little Haiti, resident Harry Noel says people have received very little information about Zika and how to prevent it.
HARRY NOEL: Nobody ever show up to educate the neighborhood's people how to get rid of mosquitoes, what to do - nobody. It's for the first time I've seen somebody coming and address that problem.
ALLEN: Planned Parenthood is also making Zika prevention kits, with condoms and mosquito repellent, available to pregnant women at its health centers. Chief medical officer Christopher Estes says his group decided it could best augment the state and federal response by doing outreach in areas they're not active - neighborhoods surrounding the zones of local Zika transmission.
CHRISTOPHER ESTES: We have the resources. We have the know-how. This is a natural extension of the work we do with reproductive health care and sexually transmitted infections that it just made sense. You know, and this is a time of a public health crisis. And when you've got something like this going on, it's all hands on deck.
ALLEN: Although it's working to coordinate with the state, relations are still strained. In recent years, Planned Parenthood's dealings with Florida officials, including Governor Rick Scott, have been contentious. A federal judge recently struck down a Florida law signed by Scott that would have cut a half million dollars annually for preventive health care from the group.
Planned Parenthood is also one of many health care providers that have been critical of Governor Scott for blocking the expansion of Medicaid in Florida under Obamacare. The CEO of Planned Parenthood of south, east and north Florida, Lillian Tamayo, says Miami-Dade County has the state's largest population of people without health coverage, leaving them vulnerable to Zika.
LILLIAN TAMAYO: More than one-third of Florida does not have an OBGYN. It also is among the worst states in the country for women's health and women's well-being. And it has staggering infection rates for sexually transmitted diseases. And now we have Zika.
ALLEN: State officials declined comment on the Planned Parenthood canvasing operation. The effort to cut public funding for Planned Parenthood has also gotten tied up with the fight against Zika in Washington. Congress deadlocked over a White House request for $1.9 billion in emergency Zika funding after House Republicans added several riders, including provisions to defund Planned Parenthood.
At a news conference in Miami this week, Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson called on Congressional leaders to stop targeting Planned Parenthood and to get serious about Zika.
(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CONFERENCE)
FREDERICA WILSON: Call us back to Washington, D.C. The House and Senate should reconvene and pass a clean bill to fight Zika.
ALLEN: In Miami, Planned Parenthood expects to knock on some 25,000 doors in medically underserved areas through September, when a recent estimate says Zika cases are expected to peak in Florida. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.