Universal Health Coverage Day 2015: Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Supplies, A Systematic Review

Universal Health Coverage Day 2015: Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Supplies, A Systematic Review

{Photo Credit: Sara Holtz/MSH}Photo Credit: Sara Holtz/MSH

As the world begins working toward the newly developed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensuring access to reproductive health supplies must be considered.

More than 100 countries are in the process of adopting or advancing universal health coverage (UHC) mechanisms to achieve the targets set for Goal 3, which calls for “good health and well-being.”

Despite the momentum, 400 million people lack access to at least one of seven life-saving health services. And in 2012, an estimated 222 million women lacked access to effective family planning. FP2020’s goal of enabling 120 million women and girls to use modern contraception requires countries to include sexual and reproductive health services and supplies when discussing health benefits packages under national insurance laws, policies, and other related UHC efforts. Moreover, marginalized populations should be prioritized for free or subsidized care.

 UHC and reproductive health commodity security are closely intertwined. UHC is rights-based and furthers the principles of equity, access, and quality. Reproductive health commodity security includes these same three principles, as well as the principle of choice. Reliable provision of health services and commodities depends on the availability of high-quality, affordable essential medicines and associated supplies.

It is not necessarily a given that UHC will automatically ensure access to quality medicines and supplies for reproductive health and family planning.  There is minimal information from only a few country case studies on the effects of UHC on access to reproductive health commodities. MSH is working to ensure access to reproductive health supplies in the context of UHC reforms by conducting a systematic review funded by the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition Innovation Grant program. This review examines the evidence on the effect of UHC on availability to reproductive health commodities and supply chains.  

The overarching questions for this systematic review are:

  • How do different health systems strategies for achieving UHC — like decentralization and national health insurance — affect access to medicines and commodities for reproductive health?
  • For those countries progressing towards UHC, what have been their experiences in ensuring access to reproductive health medicines and commodities?
  • What characteristics of UHC strategies have been most essential in increasing access to reproductive health commodities and supplies?
  • What are the effects of UHC schemes on the organization of health systems, particularly on supply chains?
  • What are the lessons, best practices, and recommendations for countries embarking on UHC to ensure availability of reproductive health supplies?

The review will provide a foundation for policymakers, advocates, and implementers dedicated to reproductive health to work together on a common issue of growing importance to reproductive health commodity security. As UHC policies and strategies are implemented, civil society groups can use the review to conduct evidence-based advocacy to ensure access to reproductive health supplies within those policies.

The review will be completed in January 2016, and the final report will be available soon thereafter. For more information on the review, please contact Kate Cho at kcho@msh.org