Ariadna Capasso is senior technical advisor at the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health.
Reducing inequities in sexual and reproductive health–especially for adolescents and youth–remains a priority focus among policymakers, healthcare practitioners, and advocates in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). In September 2016, twenty-two governments and a broad range of partners–including international and regional technical, professional, funding and research organizations, INGOs and the private sector–came together for the LAC 2016 Conference in Cartagena, Colombia.
Immediately following the XV Ibero-American Meeting of Ministers of Health in Cartagena, the LAC 2016 Conference aimed to build on and dovetail with the prior meeting’s SRH commitments, which included: 1) promoting public health policies to guarantee the SRH and rights of all young persons, 2) developing a baseline on the use of family planning methods used by youth, and 3) adopting a regional program to prevent adolescent pregnancy.
Participants at the LAC 2016 Conference collaborated to identify national and regional priorities for understanding and overcoming inequities marginalized communities face when demanding and accessing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, services, and commodities. The conference addressed sexual and reproductive health (SRH) across the continuum of care, with particular focus on the unmet needs of adolescents, including young adolescents (under age 15).
The conference featured a Marketplace of Ideas and an area for poster presentations, which consisted of 9 interactive stands and 12 posters. At the Marketplace, I highlighted an innovative strategy the FCI Bolivia team–with funding from UNICEF and in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Bolivia–developed and implemented alongside indigenous communities of Cochabamba, Bolivia to: engage indigenous women and health providers in participatory learning strategies; enable pregnant women to identify danger signs during pregnancy; seek health services; and use innovative mobile technology to promote access to skilled maternity care in this rural area. Several participants from Bolivia and other LAC countries were eager to learn more about the project for potential replication and scale-up in their communities and countries.
The LAC Conference revealed several emerging trends and opportunities to strengthen work in SRH:
- FP2020 is working to promote implementation of FP2020 commitments in Bolivia, Honduras, Haiti, and Nicaragua and IPPF has some support to promote family planning advocacy in Colombia.
- Conference participants highlighted the urgent need to address pregnancy among very young adolescents (under age 15) and gender-based violence from a unified inter-agency perspective.
- The ministries of health of the Americas have agreed to launch an Ibero-American Plan to Prevent Adolescent Pregnancy.
- Innovative, good practices to monitor sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (SRMNCAH) in a participatory way, such as maternal mortality and SRH observatories in LAC, have strengthened the monitoring of commitments in the region. The SRMNCH community needs to evaluate and systematize these practices and share the results.
- Results-based financing programs–such as the model by Salud Mesoamerica, to which MSH provides technical assistance–are seeing significant results in increasing access to comprehensive SRMNCAH services.
Recommendations from the LAC 2016 Conference will be presented at the XXV Ibero-American Summit, which will be held October 28-29, 2016, also in Cartagena, Colombia.