Countries discuss progress in access to sexual and reproductive health in the Americas

Couple holds hands

Washington, DC, September 28, 2023 (PAHO) — During the 60th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), health authorities from countries in the Americas approved a report on access to sexual and reproductive health in the region.

The document presents the current status of sexual and reproductive health (SHR) services, as well as existing health responses and barriers to access, proposing measures for improvement.

While the majority of countries have improved sexual and reproductive health service coverage, with the region reaching 84% (above the global average of 74%), disparities still exist among countries and within them.

"This is a priority issue for the region,” the PAHO Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, said. "Despite advances, the data we have show us that we must improve. The adolescent pregnancy rate in the region, for example, is unacceptable," he added.

Barriers to access to SRH services are greater in vulnerable populations, implying that certain groups consistently experience worse outcomes.

"Addressing these inequities is fundamental to achieving universal health, protecting human rights, gender equality, fighting discrimination and improving the social determinants of health," said Dr. Suzanne Serruya, Director of PAHO’s Latin American Center for Perinatology, Women and Reproductive Health (CLAP/WR).

Dr. Serruya also stressed the importance of strengthening regulatory frameworks for the protection of rights and emphasized the need for countries to make a political commitment to adequate and sustainable financing to enable the implementation of interventions.

It is estimated that achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.7 “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services," would lead to an almost 70% reduction in maternal deaths and 60% of neonatal deaths. Furthermore, reaching this target would have a positive impact on other SDGs.

"Ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services is a human rights issue and a strategy for the development of countries," Dr. Serruya highlighted.