Increasing investment in women's healthcare

A key theme for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is investing more and smarter. FIGO believes that how a country invests in women and children demonstrates how that country values its future. However, many countries are falling short of what is required to ensure UHC for all women and girls.

Investing in women's health South America

Despite the spending on sexual and reproductive healthcare being at an all-time high, with lower- and lower-middle income countries accounting for 80% of the increase in spending, Latin America accounts for only 4% of the spending. Additionally, donor funding on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) has decreased from 52% of their overall funding, to 42% in 2016/17.

This lack of funding and commitment to women’s health and ultimately their rights, has a profound effect not only on maternal and new-born mortality rates, but on future costs of healthcare and poverty rates.

Fewer than half of women and newborns in Latin America who need care for complications of pregnancy and delivery receive it. However, if all needs for contraception were invested in and fully satisfied, pregnancy-related costs would be lowered by $2.6 billion. This massive decrease is due to the reduction of unintended pregnancies, resulting in fewer women requiring care, thus making investing in the healthcare of those women who are pregnant more affordable.

In order to reduce the costs, an investment of approximately $8.56 per person annually would help to ensure that all women in the developing regions of Latin America receive essential care, and would give them the opportunity to receive effective contraception. Currently, 22% of the 62% of women in Latin America who want to avoid a pregnancy are not using an effective contraceptive method.

As well as reducing future healthcare costs and improving the health of women and girls, investing in SRHR results in changes to whole families and communities. If women are in control of when and if they have children, there will be fewer school dropouts due to unintended pregnancy, which then results in women being more equipped to secure a job and provide for themselves, meaning a decrease in poverty levels.

Policies need to be put in place to ensure funding is both available and used correctly, and to make the healthcare system of Latin America women-centred. Natural disasters are unfortunately a common occurrence, with hurricanes, droughts and floods causing immense disruption and displacement to women and their families. This disruption means that many cannot access the healthcare they require. Their duties will change, such as having to look after children that now cannot go to school and experiencing an increase in efforts to find food and water (even in a refugee camp).

This means that they will be unable to dedicate time to female healthcare needs, which will only be worsened if the government has not put adequate funding towards this. If women had access to contraception and healthcare from the get-go, the cost to try and meet their needs after a natural disaster would decrease. They would not need to focus their efforts so much on unwanted pregnancies and health issues, as they would have had access to the necessary care before the disaster, meaning efforts can be focused solely on other tasks.

If a country commits to investing early in the health and wellbeing of its’ female population, they will be on track to achieve not only UHC, but to achieving a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If countries invest in women’s healthcare, they will be closer to achieving gender equality (SDG 5), no poverty as a result (SDG 1) and good health and well-being (SDG 3).