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Post-2015 Consensus: Health Viewpoint Women Health, Starrs

Starrs emphasises the importance of reproductive health, analysed in the 2014 Guttmacher Institute report – Adding It Up: The costs and benefits of investing in sexual and reproductive health. A key element of the analysis is the concept of women who have an “unmet need” for contraception – who want to delay or stop childbearing, but are not using an effective method to prevent pregnancy. That number stands at 225 million today. Addressing that unmet need is one of the most fundamental – and potentially far-reaching – challenges we face in public health. Helping women and families avoid an unwanted pregnancy saves lives and money; the number of maternal deaths would drop by 70,000 per year, and there would be half a million fewer newborns dying every year.

For developing countries as a whole, the financial payoff of addressing the unmet need for contraception is significant: investing an additional $5 billion to provide contraceptives to women with unmet need would save almost $8 billion. In addition to a range of additional health benefits, there are also benefits beyond the health sector, difficult to quantify but no less important. One analysis estimated that investing an additional $5 per person in reproductive and child health in countries with high rates of maternal, newborn and child mortality could yield up to nine times that value in economic and social benefits. Starrs sees sexual and reproductive health services as a ‘best buy’.