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New Zealand needs a national approach to sexual health

New Zealand needs a national approach to sexual
and reproductive health

Family Planning and the New Zealand Committee of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) applaud the Health Select Committee’s second call for the implementation of a sexual and reproductive health strategy.

Chief executive of Family Planning Jackie Edmond and Chair of the New Zealand Committee of RANZCOG Dr Ian Page say there needs to be an action plan on sexual and reproductive health from the health sector – as recommended by the Select Committee in its November 2013 report and reiterated in its media release this week.

Ms Edmond says, “New Zealand does not have a strategy or a national approach to sexual and reproductive health and this is an issue that needs to be addressed “

“Family Planning has been calling for some time for a sexual and reproductive health strategy and action plan. A national plan or strategy will bring services together to prioritise key areas and allow the sector as a whole to address inequalities and inequities for individuals and at a population level.”

Dr Page commented that many New Zealand women do not currently have timely access to affordable contraception and equitable access for all who need this service needs to be a government priority.

“Data from The University of Auckland report ‘Growing up in New Zealand’ has shown that at least 55 per cent of pregnancies in the most socioeconomically deprived areas are unplanned. As outlined in the Select Committee’s report, availability of extra resource to focus on prevention of unplanned pregnancies and improvement of sexual health services is likely to be very cost effective.”

Ms Edmond says the sector is diverse and includes specialist providers such as Family Planning and sexual health clinics, generic providers such as GPs and community health centres, and Māori providers. “In order to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities, the sector has to work together with shared priorities.

“When the Select Committee report was released last year, there was optimism that a co-ordinated strategy would eventuate but the Government’s response indicated little would change. We’re hopeful that this second call by the Select Committee will see Recommendation Six implemented and funded,” says Ms Edmond.

Recommendation Six:

Develop a co-ordinated cross-sectoral action plan with the objective of giving New Zealand world-leading, evidence-based sexuality and reproductive health education, contraception, sterilisation, termination and sexual health services, distributed to cover the whole country.

Select Committee considers that successive Governments have not tackled this successfully to date, despite it being a key area to improve New Zealand’s high rate of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.

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