How Ladies Across APAC can #TakeControl of Their Health Digitally

Today (26 September) is World Contraception Day and marks the 15th year of the ongoing communication of the Your Life campaign, that puts sexual rights and contraception in focus on political, media and public levels. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, about 12 million women in Asia Pacific have seen contraceptive interruptions, leading to 1.4 million unintended pregnancies¹. While this does not seem like a huge issue at first, the fact that women have lost the ability to plan for their families and protect their health means that there is an impact on existing gender inequalities as well as the long-term socio-economic sustainability.

In a virtual roundtable entitled #TakeControl: Shaping Digital Health for Women in the COVID Decade held on 24 September 2021, it was revealed how the pandemic has affected women’s access to healthcare and highlighted the crucial role digital technology and collaboration play in shaping an empowered future for women’s health and family planning.

Data from International Planned Parenthood states that 5,633 static and mobile clinics, as well as community-based care services, in 64 countries had already been closed by April of 2020 due to the outbreak².

“We have observed three key delays that were further aggravated by the outbreak, causing a rise in unplanned pregnancies: delays in getting family planning information to women, delays in women being able to physically access medical facilities, physicians and medication due to movement restrictions, and delays in getting health services up and running again,” shared Dr. Jameel Zamir, Director of Programmes and Performance, East South East Asia and Oceania Region (ESEAOR), Malaysia, International Planned Parenthood Federation. “On the ground, I’ve seen supply chain problems, overwhelmed health facilities, and women fearful of seeking healthcare, and when access to family planning is disrupted, entire families struggle to cope.”

 

With movement restrictions driving many women online for more information on healthcare and family planning, barriers such as misconceptions, and cultural and social stigma, also present challenges within these topics.

“A lot of women in the Philippines are going online now, and I’ve seen a shift in attitude and demand for more doctors to also be online. What’s sad is that many women are online, but not the doctors,” said Dr. Michelle Dado, OBGYN & Digital Thought Leader, President of Quezon City Medical Society District IV (Philippines). “Education is the only way to encourage healthcare professionals to become more digitally savvy and translate what they do in a face-to-face consultation onto an online platform. This will help to break the endless cycle of misinformation online that may in turn lead to many young women making misinformed contraceptive choices.”

Along with flourishing online platforms, the pandemic has also accelerated healthcare digitisation on an unprecedented scale – bringing along with it pros and cons.

“Our diverse region has one of the highest unmet needs for contraception and the lowest contraception prevalence rate, and these statistics are concerning. The good news is we are the fastest growing region digitally, and digital platforms have the potential to bring three key elements to empower women: pre- and post-contraceptive support, access to information and contraceptives, and privacy,” said Jack Shen Lim, Honorary Treasurer, Malaysian Pharmacists Society. “With everything on one platform where people can access in the comfort and privacy of their home, we can intensively increase women’s access to healthcare, family planning and contraception, and reduce the rate of unplanned pregnancies.”

Across Asia Pacific, Bayer has been collaborating with governments and organizations to introduce initiatives that promote greater contraception awareness and education. This includes partnerships with the BKKBN in Indonesia, the POPCOM in the Philippines, the Department of Health’s Bureau of Reproductive Health in Thailand, and the Family Planning and Women’s Union (FPWU) and Government Office of Family Planning (GOPFP) in Vietnam. To achieve its “Health for all, Hunger for none” vision, Bayer will continue to invest in multi-stakeholder aid programs, with the ultimate goal of providing 100 million women in low- and middle-income countries with access to modern contraception methods by 2030.

For more information on contraception awareness and education, please visit https://www.your-life.com.


¹UNFPA (2021). PRESS RELEASE
New UNFPA data reveals that nearly 12 million women lost access to contraception due to disruptions caused by the pandemic, leading to 1.4 million unintended pregnancies. United Nations Population Fund. Retrieved from: https://www.unfpa.org/press/new-unfpa-data-reveals-nearly-12-million-women-lost-access-contraception-due-disruptions

²International Planned Parenthood Federation “COVID-19 pandemic cuts access to sexual and reproductive healthcare for women around the world.” https://www.ippf.org/news/covid-19-pandemic-cuts-access-sexual-and-reproductive-healthcare-women-around-world.

Images: Envato

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