Definition of Reproductive Health
“Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition are the rights of men and women to be informed and have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice. It also includes the right of access to other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility, which are not against the law, and the right of access to appropriate health-care services, including emergency obstetric and post-abortion care services, that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant. Also included is sexual health, the purpose of which is the enhancement of life and personal relations, and not merely counseling and care related to reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases.”
Cairo ICPD of 1994 and UN General Assembly Resolution 49/128
Reproductive health commodity security (RHCS) provides a powerful platform for global stakeholders—led by national government—to align efforts according to national priorities and commitments and accelerate the reduction of unmet need for family planning, improve maternal health and enable women, men and young people throughout the world to exercise their right to reproductive health. To make this right real, people need reliable access to essential supplies in combination with access to information and services.
Reproductive health commodity security is achieved when all individuals can obtain and use affordable, quality reproductive health commodities of their choice whenever they need them. Achieving ‘security’ in reproductive health supplies means that key elements are in place in a country’s plans, policies, budget, health system and human resources for impact that goes far beyond the supplies themselves.
RHCS plays a pivotal and strategic role in achieving internationally agreed goals set forth in the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals. RHCS contributes directly to the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. RHCS can also address the issue of ‘overlooked contraceptive methods’ identified by the UN Commission on Lifesaving Commodities for Woman and Children. These supplies are also crucial to UNFPA’s vision of a world in which every pregnancy is wanted, every child-birth safe and every young person’s potential fulfilled.
Reproductive health commodity security therefore provides a cornerstone for ongoing efforts to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health. It contributes in key areas:
a) Empowerment of women and young people: Where there are barriers to women and girls having unhindered access to family planning services, without discrimination or coercion, a society pays a very high price in terms of women’s and children’s health and the prosperity of communities and nations.
b) Prevention of HIV and STIs: Reproductive health commodities that include HIV test kits and condoms (male and female) are essential to support HIV and STIs programmes and achieve successful results.
c) Safe motherhood: RHCS ensures timely delivery and access to life-saving obstetric equipment and drugs to support programmes on reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity. Contraception plays a critical role in improving maternal health and perinatal outcomes.
d) Human rights: Access to contraceptives allows women, couples and especially young people to exercise their rights to reproductive health including family planning. Access is about going the last mile to reach a woman who wants to space or avoid pregnancy but is hard to reach due to poverty, geography, ethnicity, disability, displacement or age. The ability to exercise reproductive rights depends on access to RH supplies, information and services.
e) Young peoples’ reproductive health: Young people have a higher risk of unintended pregnancy, STIs and HIV, and yet are more likely to be discriminated against in their quest to access SRH information, services and supplies. RHCS promotes efforts to provide young people with quality reproductive health commodities as part of comprehensive SRH.
f) Catalyzing national action: Significant progress has been made for the past decade in reducing maternal mortality and increasing use of family planning methods globally. RHCS has made an important catalytic contribution. However, progress in regions and countries has been uneven, with disparities related to poverty, age, gender, geographical location and marital status. The most disadvantaged populations require particular attention to ensure their access to rights-based family planning and other sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
g) Reducing poverty: Universal access to reproductive health, empowering women, men and young people to exercise their right to reproductive health, and reducing related inequities are central to development and to ending poverty.
I am opening up this blog site to share information and expertise on the area of RHCS in Uganda. As the RHCS Coordinator in Uganda, I advocate to ensure that every person can freely choose, obtain and use contraceptives and RH commodities they want. I hope that through this blog I am able to share pertinent information with those who are interested in this cause.