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Friday, March 6, 2009

Reproductive Health: Front and Center in Azerbaijan

A recent national conference organized by EngenderHealth demonstrates that reproductive health has become a top priority for the Azerbaijani government. On February 17–18, more than 100 policymakers, health care professionals, and other leaders attended the reproductive health quality improvement conference in Baku. Over the last four years, EngenderHealth has been partnering with the Azerbaijani government (through the ACQUIRE Project) to strengthen its reproductive health systems. The need for better health services is great: Like many former Soviet republics, abortion had been the main method of family planning in Azerbaijan, and contraceptive choice was severely limited.

“This conference brings reproductive health and family planning issues to a new level among parliamentarians—89% of whom are men and think that reproductive health problems are women’s concerns.”
–Malahat Hasanova, member of Parliament

Participants in the meeting included four members of the Azerbaijani Parliament, officials from the government’s Ministry of Health (at the national and regional levels), doctors, health care staff, medical school administrators, and representatives of partner organizations. The discussion centered on barriers to care, and the attendees developed an action plan to address these issues.

A centerpiece of the meeting was the government officials’ presentation of a draft of the country’s first reproductive health law, which ensures the right of all Azerbaijanis to high-quality reproductive health care and family planning.

Throughout the process of developing the law and leading up to this meeting, EngenderHealth has emphasized the importance of improving the quality of reproductive health care and family planning, upholding clients’ rights to safe and effective services, and ensuring informed choice and confidentiality. EngenderHealth staff also successfully advocated for the inclusion of contraceptives on the Essential Drug List and helped the government draft the section detailing the country’s contraceptive supply needs. Additionally, EngenderHealth shared its publications on Islam and family planning, its experience working in other Muslim countries, and its expertise in applying evidence-based quality improvement approaches like COPE®.

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