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A critical moment: universal health coverage and sexual and reproductive health and rights

A critical moment: universal health coverage and sexual and reproductive health and rights

Our response to the changing global context surrounding universal health coverage

Over the past 18 months, political momentum to achieve the global health ambitions set out throughout the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has grown significantly.

In March 2017, Plan International UK published a discussion paper with Action for Global Health and Countdown 2030 Europe, which looked at the importance of including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as a key part of the universal health coverage (UHC) agenda.

Women wait with their children at a health clinic built by Plan International in Liberia
Women wait with their children at a health clinic built by Plan International in Liberia

The World Health Organisation’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, appointed in May 2017, is a vocal champion of universal health coverage and has shown a commitment to doing things differently.

In September 2019, a High-Level Meeting on UHC will take place during the UN General Assembly. All 193 Member States and governments will focus on universal health coverage, engage in a global dialogue and produce a political declaration. This presents a significant opportunity for world leaders to turn global health ambitions into more detailed commitments.

Responding to a changing global context

In response, we’ve updated our discussion paper, in light of the changing global context, to outline critical areas of SRHR that need to be addressed and included within UHC conversations.

The Guttmacher-Lancet Commission, published earlier this year, documents the magnitude of SRHR needs, with 4.3 billion people living with inadequate reproductive health services.

Sophie is campaigning to give girls a choice over their futures
Sophie is a youth advocate in Uganda campaigning for access to contraceptives and sexual health services to be a universal right.

In Uganda today, 1 in 4 teenage girls are either pregnant or already mothers. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15 to 19 year old girls globally.

In addition to the health impacts, in Uganda pregnant teenage girls are sometimes banned from attending school and are not allowed to return once they have given birth.

There is a lack of information and services for adolescent girls needed to protect themselves from early pregnancy and to make informed decisions about their bodies and their future.

Read more about Sophie and her campaign for better sexual and reproductive health services in Uganda here >

The importance of actively addressing SRHR needs

In an increasingly complex global funding and political environment for SRHR, it has never been more important to ensure that these needs are actively addressed and included within national commitments and plans on UHC.

The Declaration on Primary Health Care in Astana last week was the first in a series of key opportunities throughout the build up to the High-Level Meeting to ensure that SRHR is sufficiently prioritised and included.

The review of the SDGs at the High Level Political Forum, the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, and the launch of the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All will provide subsequent opportunities to build on the commitment to achieving UHC with an inclusion of SRHR.

Universal health coverage

Keeping Sexual and Reproductive Rights on the Agenda