The Economics of Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy

Sexual and reproductive health will always be a vital part of health policy and planning. After all the survival of our species depends on our ability to reproduce.

Beyond reproduction, human beings are one of the few species who engage in sex for pleasure. This adds some context to the conversation about sexual and reproductive health and this was a focus in our January magazine

The thrust of economic thought is an explanation for the wealth of nations with the sole aim of creating wealth that enables a large group of people to move out of poverty to a state of better economic fortune.

During policy formation with regards to sexual and reproductive health, the end goals will revolve around;

A Controlled Rate of Reproduction

It is so important that the rate of reproduction doesn’t overwhelm available economic resources. As governments plan for the future in terms of building schools, hospitals and houses, there is a need to control population growth to ensure that resources can sustain the population increase.

This explains the importance of ensuring access to family planning services. It ensures that married couples only give birth to children they can adequately cater for. This way governments don’t get overwhelmed with such a burden as typified by the Almajiri system in northern Nigeria.

N.B. The Almajiri situation arose due to uncontrolled births in northern Nigeria by parents with very little means. These children were released to certain religious leaders who taught them the tenets of the Islamic faith but these children had to beg on the streets to feed.

Reducing Maternal or Infant Mortality

Our sexual and reproductive health policy must bring to the barest minimum deaths that occur during any processes associated with reproduction. This is very important in the form of access to antenatal services as well as quality child delivery services. When we keep these deaths low, we ensure that our labor force gets adequately replaced as human capital is a driver of economic growth.

Sex Education

Ensuring availability of age-appropriate sex education both at home and in school is important. It aids decision making for young people who need to decide whether to have sex or not.

Having the necessary information helps prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Unwanted pregnancies put society in a conundrum of whether to ensure access to safe abortions or not so prevention remains a better option.

The cost of using preventive measures like a condom are far less than the cost of having to treat a sexually transmitted infection for life or dealing with an unwanted pregnancy whichever way we look at it. Sex education makes it possible for young people to get all the facts and make informed decisions.

Not Leaving Women Behind

Providing a system that ensures that the female gender is not left behind educationally due to the role they play in reproduction is vital.

This is where policies that discourage early marriage come in, because when young girls get married early their education most likely suffers due to childbirth. This makes girls mostly disadvantaged educationally and by extension economically.

A sound sexual and reproductive health policy must address this social issue to ensure that girls explore their full educational potential. Studies show high literacy rates among women has a significant impact on GDP growth and even health of children they raise.

For a nation such as Nigeria to reach full economic potential the points above are some of the health policy directions that need to be explored. People build nations and economies and they must be alive and healthy to do so.

Olusanya Oluwatomi (@TLhealthynaija on twitter)