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Report calls for collective action to transform access to sexual and reproductive health products

Reproductive health

The global health community has made tremendous progress in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) but a new report suggests that a rapidly shifting market landscape means that sustaining these gains will require new tact.

Historically, the global health community monitored market issues related to supply, quality and price of products provided to the public sector, many of which are provided through the support of major global buyers such as UNFPA and USAID. When donors noticed a market problem or opportunity, they organized a response such as negotiating with a supplier or supporting the introduction of a new product, often focused on the public sector and global procurement mechanisms.

A new report from Shaping Equitable Market Access for Reproductive Health (SEMA) provides evidence that this approach is missing the key challenges that national public and private buyers are facing, yet these are increasingly playing a larger procurement role. Buyers are citing risks related to accessing reliable supply at affordable prices due to low stock purchases. Country stakeholders are stating market risks related to not adequately understanding consumer demand to guide procurement, policy and program planning.

SEMA’s report recommends three ways that the field needs to shift to ensure it can address market issues today and in the future. The first recommendation is to focus more attention in strengthening national capacity to understand and address public and private markets. A foundational piece is the second recommendation that details how actors can align investments and activities to gather and share market data. And, lastly, SEMA urges the field to develop a mechanism that engages public and private national stakeholders to align with other partners on market priorities and facilitate a cross-country, multi-party coordinated response.

Blair Hanewall, the Executive Director of SEMA, underscores these recommendations citing that “We know these markets are getting more complex with more buyers, new products, changing demographics and the increasing role of the private sector. If we want to ensure we can sustain access to quality, affordable products, then we need to act now to invest in the capacities, data structures, and coordination platforms that we need for today and tomorrow. These approaches will also ensure we are using our resources most effectively to meet the needs of the communities.”

Consumer access to SRH products requires effective performance of various interrelated systems, such as healthcare delivery, regulatory and policy, financing, social norms, supply chain and distribution, and health markets. If public and private health markets function well, then people have reliable supply to quality products that respond to their needs and are available at fair prices that also sustain suppliers.

The report by SEMA is based on year-long research conducted in collaboration with multiple technical and national partners. The analyses identify risks and opportunities to improve national and SRH product markets, prioritizing the perspectives of country stakeholders. Recommendations from these reports ultimately aim to improve the health, equity, and resilience of these markets to ensure that women and adolescent girls can access the products they need to control their health and futures.

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