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World Health Assembly adopts first global strategy on reproductive health and resolution on the family and health

Antenatal care

The World Health Organization's first strategy on reproductive health was adopted today by the 57th World Health Assembly (WHA). Reproductive and sexual ill-health accounts for 20% of the global burden of ill-health for women, and 14% for men.

The strategy targets five priority aspects of reproductive and sexual health: improving antenatal, delivery, postpartum and newborn care; providing high-quality services for family planning, including infertility services; eliminating unsafe abortion; combating sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, reproductive tract infections, cervical cancer and other gynaecological morbidities; and promoting sexual health.

"Unsafe sex is one of the biggest risks to our health today, largely as a result of acquiring sexually-transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS. Reproductive and sexual health touches the lives of everyone, everywhere," says Joy Phumaphi, Assistant Director-General of Family and Community Health at WHO. "It is fundamental to the social and economic development of communities, economies and nations."

Each year, some eight million of the estimated 210 million women who become pregnant, suffer life-threatening complications related to pregnancy, many experiencing long-term morbidities and disabilities. In 2000, an estimated 529 000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth from largely preventable causes.

The strategy comes in response to a 55th WHA resolution requesting WHO to develop a strategy for accelerating progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other international goals and targets relating to improving reproductive health, notably those from the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, and its five-year follow-up (ICPD+5).

Three of the eight MDGs are directly related to reproductive and sexual health, namely, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

"The strong endorsement of this strategy by the WHA represents an unequivocal message that countries are committed to do all they can to achieve the goals and targets of the ICPD Program of Action adopted in 1994," says Dr Paul Van Look, Director of WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research. "The Strategy gives our Member States and the Organization itself a clear roadmap on how we can work together in the coming years to achieve the ICPD goals."

The Assembly also adopted a resolution on the Family and Health in the context of the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family. The resolution acknowledges that active participation of families and communities in promoting and protecting their own health has proved to be effective and that families and communities who are thus empowered show an increased awareness and a higher demand for good quality health services.

The Family and Health resolution also calls for a re-evaluation of the traditional approaches guiding models of care and its content because health institutions and professionals have adopted the individual as the focus for health service delivery and that as a consequence, the needs of the family as a whole may not be addressed properly.

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For more information contact:

Mr Christopher Powell
Telephone: +41 22 791 2888
Mobile phone: +41 79 217 3425
E-mail: powellc@who.int

Rebecca Harding
E-mail: hardingr@who.int