India reduces maternal mortality ratio by 77 percent

India reduces maternal mortality ratio by 77 percent

The World Health Organization (WHO) commended India earlier this week for making a groundbreaking reduction in maternal mortality. The country reduced the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by 77 percent, from 556 per 1,00,000 live births in 1990 to 130 per 1,00,000 live births in 2016. The present MMR is below the Millennium Development Goal target, and the country is on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target of an MMR below 70 by 2030. WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia Poonam Khetrapal Singh attributes India's success to a focus on improving access to maternal health services, an increase in institutional deliveries for both urban and rural women, an emphasis on mitigating the social determinants of health, and increased cooperation between the public and private sectors. "These factors alone have enabled Indian women to better control their reproductive lives and make decisions that reflect their own interests and wants," Singh said. Nations around the globe can look to India as an example of...
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In Argentina, lawmakers move to expand reproductive freedom

In Argentina, lawmakers move to expand reproductive freedom

Lawmakers in Argentina's Congress narrowly approved a bill to legalize abortion earlier today, marking a hard-won victory for abortion rights activists. The bill, which would allow women to terminate pregnancies during the first 14 weeks, now moves to the Senate where it will face an even greater challenge. Yet many Argentinian women remain inspired and hopeful. Valencia García, a 39-year-old teacher, was moved to tears by the victory: "I have this indescribable sense of freedom."  ...
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New study shows low, declining HPV vaccine follow-through in U.S.

New study shows low, declining HPV vaccine follow-through in U.S.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, and causes about 31,500 cancers in the United States each year. It also has a vaccine--but many Americans aren't being vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is already underutilized in the United States, and a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina found that HPV vaccine follow-through is declining over time. The vaccine, which is highly effective at preventing the development of abnormal cells that can progress to cervical cancer, is delivered in a series of doses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children ages 11-12 should get two doses of the vaccine six to twelve months apart; adolescents older than 14 should get three shots over four months. Yet the survey of more than a million privately-insured Americans showed that vaccine follow-through declined from 2006 to 2014. The decrease was especially prominent among female patients, from 67% in 2006 to 38%...
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Australia establishes abortion clinic protections

Australia establishes abortion clinic protections

Australian state New South Wales (NSW) has passed a law establishing 150-meter “safe access zones” around abortion clinics. Protesters who intimidate or harass patients within 150 meters of the clinic could face jail time and other punishments. The bill also makes it illegal to film any person within the safe access zone without their consent. NSW is the fifth Australian jurisdiction to establish safe access zones and prohibit harassment of people seeking reproductive services. The bill’s passage marks an important stride toward reproductive freedom in Australia and a victory for reproductive health advocates around the globe.  Photo credit: Peter Rae/AAP...
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U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge of restrictive Arkansas abortion law

U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge of restrictive Arkansas abortion law

The U.S. Supreme Court recently turned down a challenge to a restrictive Arkansas abortion law that ends the use of medication abortion in the state. The law would require physicians providing medication abortions--a series of two medications that safely terminate a pregnancy--to have a contract with a second doctor who has hospital admitting privileges. Though the state claims the law protects women’s safety, it effectively reduces the number of Arkansas abortion clinics from three to one and creates additional barriers for women to access care. This harmful law makes Arkansas the first state to effectively ban medication abortion. Photo Credit: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post...
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New studies show HPV screening is less expensive and more efficient when offered at community health campaigns compared to health clinics in rural Kenya

New studies show HPV screening is less expensive and more efficient when offered at community health campaigns compared to health clinics in rural Kenya

Cost concerns now dominate considerations for the expanded use of HPV screening for cervical cancer prevention in high and low-resource settings. As part of a trial comparing two implementation strategies for HPV testing offered via self-collection, our team recently published innovative analyses of the material and time costs for each strategy. In the larger trial, the team showed that HPV-screening through community-health campaigns (CHCs) reached more women than testing in government-supported health facilities. These new papers show that HPV-screening through CHCs was also lower in cost and provided a quicker and more efficient experience for women compared to offering HPV screening at health clinics in rural Kenya. The next step is a cost-effectiveness analysis to compare alternative screening and treatment strategies using primary data from this study along with, published data to determine the cost per disability-adjusted life year (DALY). These results can be used to help policy-makers and funders make key decisions about how to implement cervical cancer prevention...
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Guttmacher-Lancer Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights releases report in special Lancet edition

Guttmacher-Lancer Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights releases report in special Lancet edition

Last week, the Lancet published a series of articles resulting from the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. This important commission highlighted the links between SRH and rights, and the crucial role that both play in sustainable development. The commission advocates for inclusion of SRH services into universal health coverage, as one step in making them accessible and affordable to all individuals, regardless of age, race, SES, sexual orientation or sexual identity. Finally, they extol countries to make crucial reforms to promote gender equality and give women greater control over their bodies.  This timely series of articles can be found at the Lancet website....
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Despite Government Policy, Cervical Cancer Progress Stalls in India

In what might have been a leap forward for reproductive health, the Indian government unveiled an national oral, breast and cervical cancer detection protocol in 2016.  At the time, the initiative was lauded by public health professionals.  However, with little progress to show, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is attracting criticism. India leads the world in cervical cancer mortality with over 70,000 deaths per year.  Yet, its women often can't access appropriate screenings, and the government immunization schedule fails to include the HPV vaccine.  This contradicts vaccination recommendations by the WHO and the country's own National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization. It seems India may suffer from misgivings similar to those driving the worldwide anti-vaxxing movement.  A 2009 HPV vaccination trial of 25,000 Indian girls was stopped after the unrelated deaths of seven participants sparked public outcry. Stigma and logistical challenges also complicate cervical cancer screening efforts.  Considering India's "burgeoning youth population that is sexually experimenting at a younger age," this might prove an...
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Harnessing Culture for Change

Harnessing Culture for Change

Today is International Day of Zero Tolerance for female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is comprised of all procedures which alter or injure female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights, and eliminating this practice is one of the Sustainable Development Goals and a key focus area for many governments around the world. It is estimated that at least 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM and almost 40% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are currently affected. In order to make lasting change on this issue, more is needed than national legislation. FGM is deeply rooted in culture and religion, and local traditions need to be taken into account and understood to advocate for change. Read the latest editorial from The Lancet addressing this issue, and offering solutions for how we can harness culture for change....
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Ireland to Vote on Abortion Law Reform

Ireland to Vote on Abortion Law Reform

At the end of May, the Irish government will hold a referendum to decide if their long-standing constitutional ban on abortion should be repealed. Currently, unborn fetuses have a right to life equal to living humans, which has been interpreted as a ban on abortion in almost every single circumstance. If the referendum passes, the Irish Parliament will have the power to enact laws regulating abortion. Read the New York Times article for more information on the potential new regulations and Christine Ryan's blog to learn more about abortion law reform. Photo courtesy of: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters  ...
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