Since 1995, the first week of April has been designated as a time to focus on critical public health issues with the goal of helping people live longer, happier, healthier lives.
The main themes for the National Public Health Week 2012 are:
- Active Living and Healthy Eating
- Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs
- Communicable Diseases
- Reproductive and Sexual Health
- Mental & Emotional Well-Being
It’s so good to see a national public health campaign discuss reproductive and sexual health as critical services in such a no-nonsense manner!
Why is the issue of reproductive and sexual health an important public health issue?
Consider the following:
- Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. Risks associated with unintended pregnancy include low birth weight, postpartum depression and family stress.
- There are approximately 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. each year — almost half occur in young people ages 15 to 24.
- More than 1 million people in the U.S. are estimated to be living with HIV infection, and more than 50,000 people become infected each year.
- Binge drinking and illicit drug use are associated with intimate partner violence and risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex and multiple sex partners.
These may be big challenges, but there are many actions — both big and small — that each of us can take to promote reproductive and sexual health in our communities.
Here are eight things you can do, courtesy of this handout from the National Public Health Association.
1. Support comprehensive reproductive and sexual health services for men and women, as well as sexual health education.
2. Discuss sexual health concerns with your health care provider.
3. Communicate with children regarding their knowledge, values, and attitudes related to sexual activity, sexuality, and healthy relationships.
4. Support the GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign, which seeks to reduce the spread of STIs among young people through information, communication, testing, and treatment as necessary.
5. Advocate for access to quality health services and support for safe practices to improve physical and emotional well-being to reduce teen and unintended pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, and other STIs.
6. Work with local schools to ensure they are providing comprehensive reproductive and sexual health education and services. (Check out FPA’s program for schools.)
7. Promote community-based prevention programs that address intimate partner violence and sexual violence. (I would add reproductive coercion.)
8. Encourage employers to provide health coverage and employee assistance programs that include family planning and reproductive health services.
What will you do to promote reproductive and sexual health?