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Stanford ob-gyn Paul Blumenthal discusses advancing women’s health in developing countries

Stanford professor Paul Blumenthal, MD, MPH, is director of the the Stanford Program for International Reproductive Education and Services, which aims to advance women’s health in developing countries.

In a recently published Q&A, Blumenthal highlights key health issues facing women in impoverished regions and discusses how the Stanford program is collaborating with non-governmental organizations to educate clinicians, standardize protocols and enhance patient care. He also shares his views on what the new ten years will bring for women's health issues in developing nations, saying:

Think about a successful public health program such as small pox eradication. There were hundreds of thousands of people who had not been vaccinated when the government started its programs. It had to achieve a high level of vaccination throughout the population to eradicate the disease. Eventually, it developed a surveillance containment system to effectively vaccinate the necessary numbers of people around the country. Organizers of family planning programs can learn a lesson from the small pox eradication campaign, not necessarily in a medical sense, but from an operational perspective.

We currently have significant unmet needs in developing countries when it comes to women’s health issues. There are massive numbers of women who don’t have access to contraceptive methods or who can’t afford family planning in these areas. For example, it is said that approximately one thousand girls in Kenya enter reproductive age everyday. Unless we provide these thousands of young women with a contraceptive daily, we cannot keep pace with the need. That is because the demand created by the number of people entering reproductive age is much greater than the supply of available contraceptives.

We need a focused and large-scale approach to meet the demand and get to the point where the opportunistic approaches are manageable. This is why the community of governments and donors has recognized the importance of true long-term planning for at least two decades. Without significantly shifting the proportion of unmet needs, we cannot truly discuss the sustainability of a program designed by an individual university or a group of researchers such as SPIRES.

Previously: WHO’s new recommendations on contraceptive use and HIV, Gates Foundation grants aim to improve health in developing countries and Ethiopia to benefit from low-tech cervical cancer screening
Photo by International Rivers

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