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Youth should grab the opportunity for reproductive health self-care

OPINION
By Nelly Munyasia | November 10th 2021

A model of the reproductive system of women [Courtesy]

Alongside its many disruptions and negative impacts, Covid-19 bears invaluable lessons.

One of the greatest lessons from the pandemic is the need to empower young people to autonomously take charge of their sexual and reproductive health. This reality sank deeper at the height of the pandemic, when access to contraceptives was limited, thus reducing their use and increasing the risk for youth. In addition to this, many were kept away from visiting health facilities from which they could access free contraceptive services for fear of contracting coronavirus.

The consequences of these circumstances were demonstrated in the 2021 Kenya Health Indicator Survey that shows a decline in the national average of contraceptive use among women of reproductive age in 2020/21 from 44 to 29.6 per cent. This situation laid bare the urgent need to empower young people to take sexual and reproductive health self-care in their hands as a solution to such eventualities. This would mean promoting their reproductive health, with or without support from healthcare professionals. Self-care runs the entire gamut, from self-management when it comes to medication, treatment, examination, injection, administration and use of various options; to self-testing, including sampling, screening, diagnosis and monitoring; and self-awareness that involves help, education and regulation. 

This is not to imply that this is an alien concept; many young people are already practicing various aspects of self-care. They are actively seeking and sharing information relating to their sexual and reproductive health, avoiding unwanted pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). These efforts should be enhanced to reach as many young people as possible. This army of empowered youth would also play a role in tackling misconceptions, myths, misinformation and socio-cultural beliefs relating to contraceptives and other aspects of their sexual and reproductive health.

Self-care would put the young people in good stead to weather disruptive shocks without jeopardising their health and well-being by avoiding risks. This will contribute towards delivering the constitutional right to quality healthcare and improve health, human rights and social outcomes. Besides, self-care presents an opportunity to bridge existing gaps in access to sexual and reproductive health services across different parts of the country. It can help increase coverage and access, bridge disparity and increase equity and quality of service by reducing cost and enhancing efficiency in deployment of the currently strained healthcare resources and services.

The opportunity that self-care presents in enhancing young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health while deepening universal healthcare coverage is too great to be missed. Whereas its potential dividends for the economy and the society at large are great, failure to pay attention to it also has far-reaching consequences on the future.

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