Lancet highlights sexual and reproductive health

Posted: 6 November 2006

A new series - and campaign - on sexual and reproductive health in The Lancet aims to draw attention to an issue that has been "utterly marginalised" from the global conversation about health and wellbeing during the past decade, according to the Editor.

In the series, published online, The Lancet highlights the global burden of ill health in a variety of key areas: every year, 340 million new patients acquire gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia, or trichomonas, more than 120 million couples have an unmet need for contraception, 80 million women have unintended pregnancies, and an estimated 19 million women undergo unsafe abortions, of whom 70,000 die as a result. As well as the series articles, the collection includes Comments and original research.

A group of women hold their newborns at a family planning clinic in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: 2001 Hugh Rigby/CCP, Courtesy of Photoshare
A group of women hold their newborns at a family planning clinic in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: 2001 Hugh Rigby/CCP, Courtesy of Photoshare
Family planning must have higher priority. Clinic in Kampala, Uganda.© Hugh Rigby/CCP, Courtesy of Photoshare

The series covers the following issues:

  • Sexual and Reproductive Health - a matter of life and death

    The increasing influence of conservative political, religious, and cultural forces around the world threatens to undermine progress in sexual and reproductive health, according to the first paper in the Series. The greatest challenge to sexual-health promotion in almost all countries comes from opposition from conservative forces to harm-reduction strategies, such as supplying contraception to sexually active young people and providing safe, legal abortion services.

  • Sexual behaviour in context

    The second paper in the Series presents the results of the first ever global survey of sexual behaviour. There are a number of findings that go against common beliefs, including the fact there has been no universal trend towards earlier sexual intercourse.

  • Family Planning: the Unfinished Agenda

    Europe, rather than the United States, should take the lead in revitalising global commitment to family planning, according to the third paper. The authors argue that family planning should have a higher priority than investment in HIV prevention and treatment in most poor countries, because population growth poses a greater threat to development.

  • Unsafe abortion: The Preventable Pandemic

    When abortion is made legal, safe and easily accessible, women's health rapidly improves, according to the fourth paper in the Series. An estimated 19 million unsafe abortions take place every year. Women should have access to safe, legal abortion services as a fundamental right, irrespective of where they live, state the authors.

  • Global control of sexually transmitted infections

    While HIV prevention must remain a major public health priority globally, the control of other sexually transmitted infections must not be neglected, state the authors of the fifth paper in the Series.

  • Sexual and reproductive health for all - A call for action

    Sexual and reproductive health for all is an achievable goal - if cost-effective interventions are properly scaled up; political commitment is revitalised; and financial resources are mobilised, rationally allocated, and more effectively used. The final paper in the Series represents a call to action and focuses on what needs to be done to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health services by 2015.

For details on the Series, and an audio link to an introduction by the Editor and key authors, go here.