Is menstrual hygiene a game-changer in the 2030 Agenda?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Poojita Avula, a fourth-year MBBS student in Kurnool medical college, India. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) or the 2030 Agenda was developed by the UN in 2015 to achieve a sustainable future for everyone. Though the agenda lists 17 different goals, most of them are interlinked and hence requires a coordinated strategy to achieve them. As Health care (SDG 3) is an essential element of the society connecting all the SDGs, therefore should be at the core of this coordinated strategy. We as future health care professionals are also key stakeholders in the successful realisation of this agenda.

Population explosion is a growing concern in many developing countries. For example, by the year 2030, the estimated global population increment is about 1.2 times the present. This is hinting us that there will be an upsurge in urban poverty, income inequality, aged population and with these come many challenges. There cannot be a single solution for this prodigious problem however the basic health care motto would be to increase life expectancy especially in a newborn and to reduce maternal mortality.

One overlooked intervention in many developing countries is menstrual hygiene. Menstrual health has a direct association with the Maternal mortality rate(MMR) and infant mortality rate(IMR). At the global level, as we are trying to reduce MMR and IMR, menstrual hygiene management(MHM) can give developing countries good mileage.

Menstrual hygiene is not practised adequately in many developing countries due to several factors including social taboo and lack of awareness. Looking at the statistics in India, two-thirds of cervical cancer deaths are related to poor menstrual hygiene and we are also noticing alarmingly high adolescent girl school dropout rates for the same reason. The government of India has taken notice of this issue and has started a “menstrual hygiene scheme” to promulgate awareness among adolescent girls, providing low-cost sanitary napkins and safe disposal of the same. Despite these concerted efforts by the GoI, these schemes are not able to percolate down to the grass-root level.

In my opinion, future health care professionals have a key role in bridging this gap by bringing awareness to the grass root levels. We can execute various strategies related to menstrual health like participating in awareness events, training community participants, raising funds and many more. Also, strategies for MHM should be implemented at an individual level rather than focusing on high-risk populations. We should assess how each girl is vulnerable to ill practices of menstrual hygiene, this can be achieved by increasing the community participation aspect of primary health care. Recruiting more Community participants helps to ensure a more equitable distribution of benefits and it helps to reach and voice out every person’s issues.

Bringing MHM to the limelight will propel good health and literacy rates in women. It also strengthens gender equality and it is well known that an increase in literacy rates in a country would increase its economic growth, decrease its poverty and increase the life expectancy of its people. Thus, improving MHM will have a knock-on effect on few other SDGs.

About the author

Poojita Avula is a fourth-year MBBS student in Kurnool medical college, India. She is a member of the Medical students association of India. Right from her childhood, she was passionate about serving society and she chose the medical field as the right place to fulfil her passion.

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