I’m excited to introduce a new monthly feature in which we reflect on current Center activities, upcoming events, and important reproductive health topics in the news. For my first blog, I want to reflect a little on why we wanted to create a Center for Global Reproductive Health at Duke, and what we are planning to do. We created this Center to help catalyze new relationships, research ideas and advocacy that will address the reproductive and sexual health disparities we see around the world.
These stark disparities in health outcomes and human rights disproportionately impact women, and have remained present in the face of phenomenal expansions in technology, financing and health systems. They are driven by poverty, gender disparities, restrictive policies, and failure to recognize or implement effective, evidence-based solutions. We’ve all heard about the World Bank report that says more people have access to cell phones than toilets—well, certainly cell phone access is substantially greater than access to cervical cancer screening or contraceptives in many countries. An analysis by DGHI’s Center for Policy Impact in Global Health found that 70 countries are lagging in their progress to meet the SGDs in the areas of maternal and child health. The Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Rights just released their report highlighting the impact of these disparities on health, and proposes concrete steps for countries, programs and individuals to address them. There is clearly work to be done.
Duke, and DGHI specifically, has an amazing reservoir of talent in technology, clinical and behavioral research, clinical education, evaluation, healthcare innovation, and policy impact that can be harnessed to address some of the outstanding issues in reproductive health: access to family planning and safe abortion care, prevention of cervical cancer, prevention of STIS/HIV and prevention of gender based-violence. These strengths can be potentiated through strategic partnerships with organizations with a presence in the Triangle, such as RTI, FHI360, Ipas, IntraHealth and Pathfinder. This collaboration process was jumpstarted at our Center launch.
We launched the center with a focus in East Africa, reflecting the strength of the partnerships established in the region and a place where many of these health disparities remain prominent. However, with some of the challenges to women’s health access and funding over the past two years, it has became evident that now, more than ever, any discussion of challenges to global women’s health must include a focus on domestic issues, and we very much see that as part of the Center’s mission. We want to leverage the expertise and experience of researchers, advocates, policy-makers and program planners working in or with ties to Duke and the Triangle area to start a conversation about the impact of this administration on women’s sexual and reproductive health. Through the Center, we want to bring together the excellence and expertise to develop, evaluate and implement innovative strategies to improve reproductive health, with a focus on the link between SRH and empowerment.
I see the Center launch as the start of a deeper exploration of global reproductive health issues and solutions within the Duke Community, with organizations in the Triangle area and through the sustained partnerships with our East African colleagues. We hope the website can support and foster more of a conversation, by highlighting the ongoing work in the area and discussing important topics in the US and international news. Katelyn recently posted a comprehensive description of some of the activities we’ve undertaken over the past few months, and what we are planning for the rest of the year—we invite you to take a look, and to come back for updates on our progress and new ventures. We want the Center to inform, inspire and initiate new projects and collaborations. We invite you to explore the website, reach out and see what we can do together!
Megan J. Huchko, Director