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Let’s talk sexual and reproductive health

A Word from the CEO, Dr Robyn Gregory – whw news edition one, 2016

SafeSexintheWestDid you know that around 80,000 new chlamydia infections are reported in Australia each year and that chlamydia notifications have increased over the past three years in Melbourne’s west? Or that the majority of these cases are young people?

Or that only 53 per cent of sexually active young people in Melbourne’s west report that they practice safe sex by using a condom?

These statistics are a small snapshot of sexual health and reproductive realities in Melbourne’s west and in Australia. They do, however, demonstrate how sexual and reproductive health requires strengthening in the overall public health conversation and national and state policy responses. And they illustrate a need for urgent action in Melbourne’s western region.

Women’s Health West takes a regional approach to redressing the social determinants that cause sexual and reproductive ill health as part of the Action for Equity partnership. This is a four-year sexual health and reproductive health promotion plan for Melbourne’s west involving partners from local government, community and health sectors.

Action for Equity sees us working in schools, prisons, workplaces, sports centres and with health and community services across Melbourne’s west to educate a range of target populations including young women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women living with a disability, sex workers and women from refugee and migrant backgrounds to ultimately prevent sexual and reproductive ill health.

While Action for Equity works successfully at a regional level, it would benefit by being part of a state-wide and nationally-focussed approach. The absence of a federal and state policy framework limits the impact of our work in sexual and reproductive health, with public policy largely concentrating on prevention of infections or unplanned pregnancy – an individual educational or behavioural change approach – rather than broader systemic change to the factors that cause poor sexual or reproductive health, such as violence against women, homophobic attitudes or limited access to resources in rural communities.

The development of a national and state-wide policy would allow us to work within a co-designed framework integrating an overarching evidence-based approach for research, program and service development, implementation and evaluation. If we want to achieve true health equity, we must promote more strategic policy action on redressing the social determinants of sexual and reproductive health. That is one of Women’s Health West’s goals.

This comment is from the latest edition of whw news, make sure you have a read and find out more about our work in sexual and reproductive health in Melbourne’s west. #SafeSexintheWest