Access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) has still not been achieved in many countries and regions. For example, in Africa, 24.2% of women of reproductive age have an unmet need for family planning. SRHR can only be supported and enabled in a country with a strong, responsive and well-functioning health system. This health system should be sustainably financed, and properly staffed with sufficient and skilled health workers. In our short paper, we explain why a strong health system is a prerequisite for SRHR.
SRHR are fundamental to good health and the well-being of every population and crucial to gender equity and equality. Access to affordable and quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services are pivotal to meet specific health needs of women and girls throughout their lifespan; these services have a strong impact on the full range of Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH). Additionally, access to SRH services can empower women to be economically independent and pursue careers based upon their own preferences.
The link between a strong health system and the attainment of SRHR is cross-cutting and can be found in all six building blocks of a health system; all these building blocks need to be in place for a health system to work effectively. In our short paper we focus on the left side building blocks: effective health financing and a strong health workforce – also the focus of two of our programmes – are vital to achieving SRHR for all.
SRHR require strong health systems
Finance for health
Women in low- and middle-income countries tend to have less ownership of their family’s financial means. Out-of-pocket payments have been a reason for women to forgo health care, including maternal and neonatal health care, which results in higher neonatal, infant and maternal mortality. It is particularly important to take a gendered perspective in the design of health financing schemes.
Human resources for health
Health financing also contributes to the development of human resources for health. Despite human resources for health being part of a chain which also includes infrastructure, equipment, medicines, consumables and financial resources, “at the simplest level, without health workers, there can be no health services”, as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA) claim.
Read our paper