World Health Organization
World Health Organization
Essential Nutrition Actions: improving maternal, newborn, infant and young child health and nutritionWorld Health Organization
Promoting reproductive health is a priority issue in South Africa. Many reproductive health services are poorly developed and inaccessible to those most in need. This is reflected by high rates of other largely preventable conditions such as STDs, teenage pregnancy, cervical cancer, unsafe abortion and ill-health related to pregnancy and child birth. There are also many who do not have easy access to family planning services and hence do not have the ability to choose when to have children. In addition, some worrying statistics in this issue of UPDATE showing the growing prevalence of HIV, emphasises the importance of promoting good reproductive health. Despite all these observations, we still do not have accurate and reliable figures on the extent of these problems.
Adolescents are particularly in need of reproductive health services. This group are especially vulnerable to an array of problems such as teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Waiting for adolescents to come to a clinic is not enough, as many are not regular users of health care. Outreach activities and community involvement are essential if we are to reach this important group.
Commitment to providing good reproductive health services is needed by all those working in health care in South Africa. At the moment, many reproductive health services are provided separately. For example, people are often expected to come on different days for different reproductive health services (antenatal care, STDs, family planning, etc.), or queue up to see different health professionals for each different reproductive health service. This practice clearly discourages clients from obtaining the health care they want and need.
Changing the way reproductive health services are delivered is particularly important in light of some recent international research which showed over 40% reduction in HIV incidence through improved case management of STDs. This research has important implications for South African health services where many opportunities to diagnose and treat STDs are missed. We need to move away from 'problem specific', reproductive health services and move towards a truly comprehensive reproductive health care system througout South Africa.
It is now time to openly acknowledge the crucial importance of good reproductive health and seize the opportunity to improve reproductive health services in South Africa. To begin, we need more information on the prevalence and incidence of reproductive ill health the extent of problems of motivation and barriers to using effective methods of prevention (e.g. condoms) and seeking reproductive health care access to facilities and the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of care provided. This information will make it possible to design and implement programmes to improve the reproductive health of everyone throughout South Africa.