More Action Needed to Improve Access to Reproductive and Sexual Health
Written by Comms Team, March 8, 2023
Peterborough Public Health marks International Women’s Day with call for universal access to contraception and menstrual products
Today, Peterborough Public Health marks International Women’s Day (IWD) with a call to improve health for women, girls, and gender-diverse people by bridging gaps in access to contraception and menstrual products.
Equitable access to contraception and menstrual products is a human rights and health equity issue, yet many Canadians face barriers accessing these products due to factors such as cost, geography, availability of healthcare services, and education.
“Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that does not offer public coverage for contraception,” stated Donna Churipuy, Director of Health Protection at Peterborough Public Health. “Recent data shows that 1 in 5 Canadians lack sufficient access to drug coverage required to obtain medications needed to support their reproductive and sexual health.”
Similarly, current research reveals that many Canadians struggle to afford menstrual products, an issue that is often referred to as period poverty. Recent estimates from the Federal Government suggest that menstrual products can cost up to $6000 over an individual’s lifetime, and that 1 in 3 Canadians struggle to afford products such as pads, tampons, and liners.
Last week, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to offer free prescription contraception for all residents. Beginning April 1, the province will cover the cost of prescription contraception, including oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, copper and hormonal intrauterine devices, subdermal (under-the-skin) implants, and emergency contraceptives (often known as the ‘morning-after’ pill or Plan B).
Although Canada and Ontario have both expanded public access to contraception and menstrual products for eligible populations in recent years, gaps in access remain. In particular, evidence shows that marginalized communities, including refugees, sex workers, trans and non-binary people, Indigenous communities, people experiencing homelessness, and people living in rural and remote areas, continue to face challenges accessing these necessities.
According to Dr. Thomas Piggott, Medical Officer of Health, financial constraints are a significant obstacle standing in the way of reproductive and sexual health. “Inability to afford basic necessities such as tampons, pads and liners fuel stigma and shame while creating health risks for people who struggle to afford them. This shows that efforts to advance reproductive justice and sexual health are linked to income inequality and resolving the factors the prevent people accessing their basic needs. Gender equity is a public health issue, but it is also all of our issue to address.”
Today Dr. Thomas Piggott wrote to Dr. Moore the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario to advocate that he and the provincial government prioritize free access to contraception and expanded access to menstrual products as key public health actions to improve gender equity for women.
This International Women’s Day, Peterborough Public Health encourages you to #EmbraceEquity and call for improved access to contraceptive options and menstrual products in our community. Here are some ways you can help support sexual and reproductive health:
- Have an open conversation with a friend, family member or colleague about the barriers that limit access to contraceptives and period poverty in Canada
- Connect with your MPP to advocate for equitable access to contraceptives and menstrual products in Ontario
- Support or donate to organizations that help increase access to menstrual products for those that may be unable to afford them, such as the United Way’s Tampon Tuesday initiative
- Visit Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights and Sex & U to learn more about reproductive and sexual health, including information about different types contraception and sexually transmitted infections
For information about Peterborough Public Health’s sexual health clinic, visit online at www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca/your-health/sexual-health-clinic/.
For further information, please contact: