Adolescence, spanning 10 to 19 years of age, begins with biological changes while transitioning from a social status of a child to an adult. For millions of adolescents in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), this is a period of exposure to vulnerabilities and risks related to sexual and reproductive health (SRH), compounded by challenges in having their SHR needs met. Globally, adolescent sexual and reproductive ill-health disease burden is concentrated in LMICs, with sexually transmitted infections and complications from pregnancy and childbirth accounting for the majority of the burden. Adolescents around the world are using their voices to champion access to high-quality, comprehensive SRH information and services. Thus, it is imperative that adolescents’ SRH and rights be reinforced and that investments in services be prioritized.
Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health
Ndola Prata and Karen Weidert
Approaches to Contraceptive Methods for Men
Christina Wang and Ronald S. Swerdloff
Unlike female contraception methods, male contraception has had no new approved approaches since the introduction of no-scalpel vasectomy over 40 years ago. Men who wish to share family planning responsibilities have withdrawal or condoms as available reversible methods of contraception. These methods have a high failure rate and are user dependent. While a vasectomy can be surgically reversed, it should be considered a form of permanent contraception because pregnancy in the partner cannot be guaranteed after reversal. Experimental methods, including chemicals to block the vas deferens, are undergoing testing. Since the 1970s, hormonal male contraception using testosterone alone and testosterone combined with a progestin demonstrated high efficacy and few short-term adverse effects. Long-term adverse effects cannot be determined until a hormonal male contraceptive method is approved, allowing safety studies to be performed. Contraceptive efficacy studies have shown failure rates comparable to those of hormonal female contraception. Current studies focus on user-controlled methods such as daily transdermal gels, oral pills, and long-acting injectables. Large-scale population studies performed in the early 2000s confirmed that over 50% of men surveyed would try a new male contraceptive, preferring an oral pill over injections or implants. These surveys also showed that over 80% of the women welcomed a new method of contraception, and over 90% of them would trust their partner to use the male method consistently. With changes in gender roles and gender equity in relationships, it is anticipated that male participation in family planning methods will be enhanced. Successful efficacy, safety, and reversibility with hormonal male-directed methods may pave the way new, targeted nonhormonal approaches. Once the testicular target is selected, new compounds can be identified based on structure function analyses or high-throughput screening to identify agonists or antagonists of the target.
Bioethics and Reproduction With Insights From Uruguay
Lillian Abracinskas and Santiago Puyol
As time goes by, the world experiences advances and setbacks in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights. But new challenges appear in terms of professional performance and implementation of services created by newer laws and policies. The development of new ethical frames in dialogue with disputed value systems is one of the main obstacles to ensuring universal access and comprehensive services to guarantee the exercise of these rights. Since 2002, Uruguay has been one of the few countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that has achieved significant advances regarding sexual and reproductive rights by recognizing them as human rights. The passage of several laws has resulted in the implementation of programs in SRHS and legal abortion as being considered mandatory for the National Health System. The follow-up and monitoring of this process by the Observatory of Mujer y Salud en Uruguay (MYSU) has demonstrated how changes in the legal framework led to a new stage for health-care providers, politicians, and decision makers and also for the social movement that has historically advocated for this agenda, all now facing new problems and challenges—some of which are completely unexpected. The high prevalence of conscientious objection exercised by physicians and OB/GYNs in refusing the provision of care in SRHS is one of the ethical dilemmas that needs to be discussed to innovate solutions to the problems and promote best practices from a gender equity and human rights paradigm.
Biological and Social Aspects of Human Infertility: A Global Perspective
Marie Thoma, Jasmine Fledderjohann, Carie Cox, and Rudolph Kantum Adageba
Infertility remains a neglected area in sexual and reproductive health, yet its consequences are staggering. Infertility is estimated to impact about 10–25% (estimates range from 48 to 180 million) of couples of reproductive age worldwide. It is associated with adverse physical and mental health outcomes, financial distress, severe social stigma, increased risk of domestic abuse, and marital instability. Although men and women are equally likely to be infertile, women often bear the societal burden of infertility, particularly in societies where a woman’s identity and social value are closely tied to her ability to bear children. Despite these consequences, disparities in access to infertility treatment between low- and high-income populations persist given the high cost and limited geographic availability of diagnostic services and assisted reproductive technologies. In addition, a considerable proportion of infertility is a result of preventable factors, such as smoking, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy-related infection or unsafe abortion, and environmental contaminants. Accordingly, programs that address the equitable prevention and treatment of infertility are not only in keeping with a reproductive rights perspective but can also improve public health. However, progress on infertility as a global concern in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights is stymied by challenges in understanding the global epidemiology of infertility, including its causes and determinants, barriers to accessing quality fertility care, and a lack of political will and attention to this issue. The tracking and measurement of infertility are highly complex, resulting in considerable ambiguity about its prevalence and stratification in reproduction globally. A renewed global focus on infertility epidemiology, risk factors, and access to and receipt of quality of care will support individuals in trying to reach their desired number and spacing of children and improve overall health and well-being.
Community-Oriented Primary Health Care for Improving Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health
Amira M. Khan, Zohra S. Lassi, and Zulfiqar A. Bhutta
Nearly 80% of the world’s population lives in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and these regions bear the greatest burden of maternal, neonatal, and child mortality, with most of the deaths occurring at home. Much of global maternal and child mortality is attributable to easily preventable and treatable conditions. However, the challenge lies in reaching the most vulnerable communities, especially the rural populations, making it imperative that maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) interventions focus on communities in tandem with facility-based strategies. There is widespread consensus that delivering effective primary health care (PHC) interventions through the continuum of care, starting from pregnancy to delivery and then to the newborn, infant, and the young child, is an integral component of health strategies in high-, middle- and low-income settings. Despite gaps in research, several effective community-based PHC approaches have been proven to impact MNCH positively. Implementation of these strategies is needed at scale in LMICs and in partnership with all stakeholders including the public and private sector. Community-based PHC, operating on the principles of community engagement and community mobilization, is now more critical than ever. Further robust studies are needed to evaluate certain strategies of community-based PHC and their impact on maternal and child health outcomes, such as the use of mobile technology and social franchises. Recognition of community health workers (CHWs) as a formal cadre and the integration of community-based health services within PHC are vital in strengthening efforts to impact maternal, neonatal, and child health outcomes positively. However, despite the importance of community-based PHC for MNCH in LMICs, the existence of a strong health system and skilled workforce is central to achieving positive health outcomes in these regions.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is increasingly accepted as the most preferred way of structurally enhancing young peoples’ sexual and reproductive well-being. A historical development can be seen from “conventional,” health-based programs to empowerment-directed, rights-based approaches. Notably the latter have an enormous potential to enable young people to develop accurate and age-appropriate sexual knowledge, attitudes, skills, intentions, and behaviors that contribute to safe, healthy, positive, and gender-equitable relationships. There is ample evidence of program effectiveness, provided basic principles are adhered to in terms of content (e.g., adoption of a broad curriculum, including gender and rights as core elements) and delivery (e.g., learner centeredness). Additional and crucial levers of success are appropriate teacher training, the availability of sexual health services and supplies, and an altogether enabling (school, cultural, and political) context. CSE’s potential extends far beyond individual sexual health outcomes toward, for instance, school social climates and countries’ socioeconomic development. CSE is gaining worldwide political commitment, but a huge gap remains between political frameworks and actual implementation. For CSE to reach scale and its full potential, multicomponent approaches are called for that also address social, ideological, and infrastructural barriers on international, national, and local levels. CSE is a work never done. Current unfinished business comprises, among others, fighting persevering opposition, advancing equitable international cooperation, and realizing ongoing innovation in specific content, delivery, and research-methodological areas.
Timothee Fruhauf and Holly A. Rankin
Contraceptive technology refers to tools that are used to delay or prevent pregnancy. Modern contraceptive technology encompasses female or male sterilization, intrauterine devices, contraceptive implants, contraceptive pills, contraceptive patches, intravaginal rings, diaphragms, external or internal condoms, emergency contraception, and certain fertility awareness–based methods. Duration of these methods’ effects varies from permanent and irreversible to long-lasting and reversible to short term with day-to-day reversibility. The efficacy of modern contraceptive technologies at preventing pregnancy ranges between 76% and 99.95% during the first year of typical use. Mechanisms of action vary from physically impeding meeting of sperm and oocyte to use of exogenous reproductive hormones to alter fertility. Contraceptive counseling for the selection of a method should adopt a shared decision-making framework and can consider advantages, disadvantages, contraindications, and side effects of a method to align with a patient’s contraceptive use goals. Certain clinical contexts, such as post-abortion, postpartum, adolescent patients, and patients with elevated body mass index have contraceptive nuances that are important to consider. Finally, contraceptive technology has many non-contraceptive benefits that provide additional indications for their use.
Demographic Transition in India: Insights Into Population Growth, Composition, and Its Major Drivers
Usha Ram and Faujdar Ram
Globally, countries have followed demographic transition theory and transitioned from high levels of fertility and mortality to lower levels. These changes have resulted in the improved health and well-being of people in the form of extended longevity and considerable improvements in survival at all ages, specifically among children and through lower fertility, which empowers women. India, the second most populous country after China, covers 2.4% of the global surface area and holds 18% of the world’s population. The United Nations 2019 medium variant population estimates revealed that India would surpass China in the year 2030 and would maintain the first rank after 2030. The population of India would peak at 1.65 billion in 2061 and would begin to decline thereafter and reach 1.44 billion in the year 2100. Thus, India’s experience will pose significant challenges for the global community, which has expressed its concern about India’s rising population size and persistent higher fertility and mortality levels. India is a country of wide socioeconomic and demographic diversity across its states. The four large states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan accounted for 37% of the country’s total population in 2011 and continue to exhibit above replacement fertility (that is, the total fertility rate, TFR, of greater than 2.1 children per woman) and higher mortality levels and thus have great potential for future population growth. For example, nationally, the life expectancy at birth in India is below 70 years (lagging by more than 3 years when compared to the world average), but the states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have an average life expectancy of around 65–66 years. The spatial distribution of India’s population would have a more significant influence on its future political and economic scenario. The population growth rate in Kerala may turn negative around 2036, in Andhra Pradesh (including the newly created state of Telangana) around 2041, and in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu around 2046. Conversely, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan would have 764 million people in 2061 (45% of the national total) by the time India’s population reaches around 1.65 billion. Nationally, the total fertility rate declined from about 6.5 in early 1960 to 2.3 children per woman in 2016, a result of the massive efforts to improve comprehensive maternal and child health programs and nationwide implementation of the national health mission with a greater focus on social determinants of health. However, childhood mortality rates continue to be unacceptably high in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh (for every 1,000 live births, 43 to 55 children die in these states before celebrating their 5th birthday). Intertwined programmatic interventions that focus on female education and child survival are essential to yield desired fertility and mortality in several states that have experienced higher levels. These changes would be crucial for India to stabilize its population before reaching 1.65 billion. India’s demographic journey through the path of the classical demographic transition suggests that India is very close to achieving replacement fertility.
Disability Inclusion in Sexual and Reproductive Health in the United States
Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) more than 30 years ago, people with disabilities experience significant barriers to exercising their right to sexual and reproductive health throughout their life course. The historical segregation and stigmatization of disabled individuals has created the conditions in which members of this population experience persistent disparities in the prevalence of adverse health conditions and inadequate attention to care, along with disparities in preventive care, health promotion, and access to health care services. These disparities manifest in social services and health care generally and also in the sphere of sexual and reproductive health. Among many direct care workers, health care providers, and family members, assumptions persist that individuals with disabilities are asexual, unable to exercise informed consent to sexual activity, and unable to carry a pregnancy to term or to parent successfully. These assumptions adversely affect the ability of individuals with disabilities to access basic information about their sexual health and function in order to make informed decisions about their sexual activity, and also impact their access to preventive health screening, contraception, and perinatal care. Inadequate transportation and physically inaccessible environments and equipment such as examination tables pose additional barriers for some disabled individuals. A lack of training in disability-competent care among health care professionals is a pervasive problem and presents yet another challenge to obtaining appropriate and necessary information and care. Despite these barriers, the research shows that more and more women with disabilities are having children, and there is an increasing recognition that people with disabilities have a right to sexual expression and appropriate sexual and reproductive health care , accompanied by a gradual evolution among social services and health care providers to provide the necessary information and support.
Early Life Origins of ASD and ADHD
Yuelong Ji, Ramkripa Raghavan, and Xiaobin Wang
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication and by the presence of restrictive, repetitive behavior. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is another common lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by three major presentations: predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and combined. Although ASD and ADHD are different clinical diagnoses, they share various common characteristics, including male dominance, early childhood onset, links to prenatal and perinatal factors, common comorbidity for each other, and, often, persistence into adulthood. They also have both unique and shared risk factors, which originate in early life and have lifelong implications on the affected individuals and families and society. While genetic factors contribute to ASD and ADHD risk, the environmental contribution to ASD and ADHD has been recognized as having potentially equal importance, which raises the hope for early prevention and intervention. Maternal folate levels, maternal metabolic syndrome, and metabolic biomarkers have been associated with the risk of childhood ASD; while maternal high-density lipoprotein, maternal psychosocial stress, and in utero exposure to opioids have been associated with the risk of childhood ADHD. As for shared factors, male sex, preterm birth, placental pathology, and early life exposure to acetaminophen have been associated with both ASD and ADHD. The high rate of comorbidity of ASD and ADHD and their many shared early life risk factors suggest that early identification and intervention of common early life risk factors may be cost-effective to lower the risk of both conditions. Efforts to improve maternal preconception, prenatal, and perinatal health will not only help reduce adverse reproductive and birth outcomes but will also help mitigate the risk of ASD and ADHD associated with those adverse early life events.
Engaging Men in Sexual and Reproductive Health
Tim Shand and Arik V. Marcell
Engaging men in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) across the life span is necessary for meeting men’s own SRH needs, including: prevention of STIs, HIV, unintended pregnancy, and reproductive system cancers; prevention and management of infertility and male sexual dysfunction; and promotion of men’s sexual health and broader well-being. Engaging men is also important given their relationship to others, particularly their partners and families, enabling men to: equitably support contraceptive use and family planning and to share responsibilities for healthy sexuality and reproduction; improve maternal, newborn, and child health; prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV; and advocate for sexual and reproductive rights for all. Engaging men is also critical to achieving gender equality and challenging inequitable power dynamics and harmful gender norms that can undermine women’s SRH outcomes, rights, and autonomy and that can discourage help- and health-seeking behaviors among men. Evidence shows that engaging men in SRH can effectively improve health and equality outcomes, particularly for women and children. Approaches to involving men are most effective when they take a gender transformative approach, work at the personal, social, structural, and cultural levels, address specific life stages, and reflect a broad approach to sexuality, masculinities, and gender. While there has been growth in the field of men’s engagement since 2010, it has primarily focused on men’s role as supportive to their partners’ SRH. There remains a gap in evidence and practice around better engaging men as SRH clients and service users in their own right, including providing high-quality and accessible male-friendly services. A greater focus is required within global and national policy, research, programs, and services to scale up, institutionalize, and standardize approaches to engaging men in SRH.
Experimental and Intervention Studies of Couples and Family Planning in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review
Stan Becker and Dana Sarnak
The vast majority of births in the world occur within marriages or stable partnerships. Yet family planning programs have largely ignored the male partner. One justification for this nearly exclusive focus on women has been that almost all of the modern contraceptive methods are female-oriented. In contrast, studies of fertility preferences within couples that included a later follow-up have shown that men’s fertility preferences are important for predicting subsequent births. Interspousal communication can be key to resolving differences in desired family size and for promoting open contraceptive use. Experimental studies with couples on family planning education and/or counseling show higher contraceptive prevalence or continuation in the couples groups than in the women-only groups, though the differences are not always significant statistically. Other intervention studies have varying designs and mixed results. The purpose of this systematic review is to summarize the research findings on interventions with couples on reproductive health from experimental and pre–post observational studies. An important conclusion is that couples education and counseling are critical components for involving male partners. There is a need for systematic research on couples using a standardized intervention and fixed follow-up times and including analyses of cost-effectiveness.
Fetal Deaths in High-Income Countries
Sarka Lisonkova and K. S. Joseph
Fetal death refers to the death of a post-embryonic product of conception while in utero or during childbirth, and it is one of the most distressing events faced by women and families. Birth following spontaneous fetal death is termed “miscarriage” if it occurs early in gestation, and “stillbirth,” if it occurs beyond the point of viability. There are substantial between-country differences in the criteria used for reporting stillbirths and these differences compromise international comparisons of stillbirth rates. In high-income countries, a majority of fetal deaths occur due to genetic causes, fetal infection, or other pregnancy complications. Congenital anomalies, placental insufficiency, and/or intrauterine growth restriction are frequent antecedents of fetal death. Maternal risk factors include advanced maternal age, high body mass index, smoking and substance use during pregnancy, prior stillbirth, chronic morbidity, and multifetal pregnancy. Disparities in education and socioeconomic status and other factors influencing maternal health also contribute to elevated rates of stillbirth among vulnerable women.
First Trimester Medication Abortion: Public Health Challenges and Clinical Guidance
Devanshi Somaiya and Candace Lew
According to 2015–2019 data, there are 121 million unintended pregnancies each year globally. One hundred eleven million of these occur in low- and middle-income countries. Of all unintended pregnancies, 61%, or about 73 million pregnancies, end in abortions annually, at the rate of 39 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. About half the abortions, or 35 million of them, are unsafe, contributing to the 299,000 maternal deaths each year. These, in turn, have implications for the realization of almost every one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically ensuring good health and well-being, achieving gender equity, and ending poverty. Abortions occur in every country irrespective of income level or the legal status of abortion. From 1990 to 2019, there has been a greater increase in the proportion of pregnancies ending in abortions in countries where abortion is restricted compared with countries where abortion is broadly legal. A growing proportion of these abortions are medication abortions, incorporating the use of mifepristone or misoprostol or both. The availability of this becomes even more important in areas where policy or infrastructure or both are more restrictive for providing safe, legal abortions. Providing quality, women-centered, comprehensive abortion care that is equitably accessible hence becomes imperative to addressing a woman’s ability to access appropriate medical care for her reproductive needs. Making this amenable to a digital platform overcomes even more barriers, be they socioeconomic or policy-driven. Fortunately, recent research and evidence support this, hence broadening the availability of safe abortion care into areas and demographics that remained precluded from the availability of comprehensive reproductive health care. Targeted progress and strengthened commitments are needed to further this penetration and provide access to compassionate, safe, and quality care for abortion and family planning.
Gender and Reproductive Health Empowerment
Shannon N. Wood, Robel Yirgu, and Celia Karp
Gender and reproductive health empowerment are central concepts for understanding and improving population health and well-being. Beginning in the 1990s, global platforms, including the United Nations, began recognizing gender-based inequities, including violence against women and lack of women’s participation in education and the economy, as social determinants of health. Since the 1990s there has been growing international interest in the concept of empowerment as a means for understanding the mechanisms that drive outcomes related to health and development. Although several definitions of empowerment have evolved over the past 30 years, the pivotal work of Dr. Naila Kabeer has grounded many interpretations of women’s empowerment as a process by which a woman has the individual capacity and freedom to act on her own choices in life. To date, the lack of comparable empowerment definitions remains a major hindrance to conducting comprehensive research that links empowerment to health outcomes. Additionally, while most recognize empowerment as a multidimensional process, the majority of measures used for examining this concept have been unidimensional (focused on agency, self-efficacy, household decision-making, etc.), thereby limiting the understanding of empowerment across populations, geographies, and contexts. Subsequent framing of women’s empowerment has focused specifically on sexual and reproductive empowerment, recognizing that women may be empowered in certain realms (e.g., economic), but not in others (e.g., autonomy in contraceptive decisions). Developments in the conceptualization of reproductive empowerment since 2015 have paved the way for improved measurement and exploration of this concept, yet gaps in research remain.
Global Epidemiology of Induced Abortion
Suzanne O. Bell, Mridula Shankar, and Caroline Moreau
Induced abortion is a common reproductive experience, with more than 73 million abortions occurring each year globally. Worldwide, the annual abortion incidence decreased in the 1990s and the early decades of the 21st century, but this decline has been driven by high-resource settings, whereas abortion rates in low- and middle-resource countries have remained stable. Induced abortion is a very safe procedure when performed according to World Health Organization guidelines; however, legal restrictions, stigma, cost, lack of resources, and poor health system accountability limit the availability, accessibility, and use of quality abortion care services. Even as women’s use of safer self-managed medication abortion options becomes more common in some parts of the world, 45% of all abortions annually are unsafe, nearly all of which occur in low- and middle-resource settings, where unsafe abortion remains a primary cause of maternal death. Beyond country-level legal and health care system factors, significant disparities exist in women’s reliance on unsafe abortion. Even among women who receive a safe abortion, quality of care is often poor. Yet abortion’s precarious status as a health care service and its clandestine practice have precluded a systematic focus on quality monitoring and evaluation of service inputs. Improving abortion and postabortion care quality is essential to meeting this reproductive health need, as are efforts to prevent abortion-related mortality and morbidity more broadly. This requires a three-tier approach: primary prevention to reduce unintended pregnancy, secondary prevention to make abortion procedures safer, and tertiary prevention to reduce the negative sequelae of unsafe abortion procedures. Strategies include two complementary approaches: vulnerability reduction and harm reduction, the first focusing on the root causes of unsafe abortion by addressing the determinants of unwanted pregnancy and clandestine abortion, while the latter addresses the harmful consequences of clandestine abortion. Political commitments to extend service coverage of abortion and postabortion care need to be implemented through actions that build the public health system’s capacity. Beyond the model of receiving care exclusively in clinical settings, models of guided self-managed abortion are expanding the capacity of individuals to take evidence-based actions to terminate their pregnancies safely and without the threat of judgment. Research has strived to keep up with the changes in the abortion care landscape, but there remains a continuing need to improve methodologies to generate robust evidence to identify and address inequities in abortion care and its health consequences in a diversified landscape. Doing so will provide information for stakeholders to take actions toward a new era of health care reforms that repositions abortion as an integral component of sexual and reproductive health care.
HIV Ed: A Global Perspective
Ralph J. DiClemente and Nihari Patel
At the end of 2016, there were approximately 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide with 1.6 million people being newly infected. In the same year, 1 million people died from HIV-related causes globally. The vast prevalence of HIV calls for an urgent need to develop and implement prevention programs aimed at reducing risk behaviors. Bronfenbrenner’s socio-ecological model provides an organizing framework to discuss HIV prevention interventions implemented at the individual, relational, community, and societal level. Historically, many interventions in the field of public health have targeted the individual level. Individual-level interventions promote behavior change by enhancing HIV knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs and by motivating the adoption of preventative behaviors. Relational-level interventions focus on behavior change by using peers, partners, or family members to encourage HIV-preventative practices. At the community-level, prevention interventions aim to reduce HIV vulnerability by changing HIV-risk behaviors within schools, workplaces, or neighborhoods. Lastly, societal interventions attempt to change policies and laws to enable HIV-preventative practices. While previous interventions implemented in each of these domains have proven to be effective, a multipronged approach to HIV prevention is needed such that it tackles the complex interplay between the individual and their social and physical environment. Ideally, a multipronged intervention strategy would consist of interventions at different levels that complement each other to synergistically reinforce risk reduction while simultaneously creating an environment that promotes behavior change. Multilevel interventions provide a promising avenue for researchers and program developers to consider all levels of influences on an individual’s behavior and design a comprehensive HIV risk-reduction program.
Male Reproductive Function and Fecundity
Michael T. Mbizvo and Tendai M. Chiware
Male reproductive function entails complex processes, involving coordinated interactions between molecular structures within the gonadal and hormonal pathways, tightly regulated by the hypothalamic–pituitary gonadal axis. Studies in men and animal models continue to unravel these processes from embryonic urogenital development to gonadal and urogenital ducts function. The hypothalamic decapeptide gonadotropin-releasing hormone is released into the hypophyseal portal circulation in a pulsatile fashion. It acts on the gonadotropes to produce the gonadotropins, the main trophic hormones acting on the testis to regulate sperm production. This endocrine control is complemented by paracrine and autocrine regulation arising from the testis, where germ cells originate, modulated by growth factors and local regulators arising within the testis. The process of spermatogenesis, originating in seminiferous tubules, is characterized by stem cell proliferation and differentiation, meiotic divisions, expression of transcriptional regulators, through to morphological changes which include cytoplasm reorganization and flagellum development. Metabolic processes and signal transduction pathways facilitate the functional motion and transport of sperm to the site of fertilization. The normal sperm structure or morphology acquired during spermatogenesis, epididymal maturation, sperm capacitation including motility, and subsequent acrosome reaction are all critical events in the acquisition of sperm fertilizing ability. Generation of the male gamete is assured through adequate gonadal function, involving complex differentiation processes and regulation, during spermiogenesis and spermatogenesis. Sperm functional changes are acquired during epididymal transit, and functional motion is maintained in the female reproductive tract, involving activation of signaling processes and transduction pathways. Infertility can arise in the male, from spermatogenic failure, sperm functional quality, obstruction and other factors, but causes remain unknown in a large proportion of affected men. Semen analysis, complemented by the clinical picture, remains the mainstay of male infertility investigation. Assisted reproductive technology has proved useful in instances where the cause is not treatable. Complications from sexually transmitted infections could lead to male infertility, by impairing sperm quality, production, or transport through the reproductive tract. Male fecundity denotes the biological capacity of men to reproduce, based on ability to ejaculate normal sperm. Lifestyle, environmental, and endocrine disruptors have been implicated in reduced male fecundity. Interactions between vascular, neurological, hormonal, and psychological factors confer normal sexual function in men. Nocturnal erections begin in early puberty, occurring with REM sleep. Sexual health is an integral part of sexual and reproductive health, while sexual dysfunction, in various forms, is also experienced by some men. Methods of contraception available to men are few, and underused. They include condoms and vasectomy. Enhanced knowledge of male reproductive function and underlying physiological mechanisms, including sperm transit to fertilization, can be catalytic in improvements in assisted reproductive technologies, male infertility diagnosis and treatment, and development of contraceptives for men. The article reviews the processes associated with male reproductive function, dysfunction, physiological processes and infertility, fecundity, approaches to male contraception, and sexual health. It further alludes to knowledge gaps, with a view to spur further research impetus towards advancing sexual and reproductive health in the human male.
Malnutrition is caused by consuming a diet with either too little and/or too much of one or more nutrients, such that the body malfunctions. These nutrients can be the macronutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that provide the body with its building blocks and energy, or the micronutrients including vitamins and minerals, that help the body to function. Infectious diseases, such as diarrhea, can also cause malnutrition through decreased nutrient absorption, decreased intake of food, increased metabolic requirements, and direct nutrient loss. A double burden of malnutrition (both overnutrition and undernutrition) often occurs across the life course of individuals and can also coexist in the same communities and even the same households. While about a quarter of the world’s children are stunted, due to both maternal and young child undernutrition, overweight and obesity affects about one in three adults and one in ten children. Anemia, most commonly due to iron deficiency, is also affecting about a third of women of reproductive age and almost half of preschool children. Around 90% of nations have a serious burden of either two or three of these different forms of malnutrition. Malnutrition is one of the principal and growing causes of global disease and mortality, affecting at least half of the world’s inhabitants. Programs for tackling maternal and child undernutrition have gained impetus in the last decade with a consensus developing around a package of effective interventions. The nutrition-specific interventions, mostly delivered through the health sector, are directed at immediate levels of causality, while nutrition-sensitive interventions, directed at the underlying and basic levels of causality are delivered through other sectors such as agriculture, education, social welfare, as well as water and sanitation. Less consensus exists around the interventions needed to reduce overnutrition and the associated non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. Prevention is certainly better than cure, however, and creating enabling environments for healthy food choices seems to be the most promising approach. Achieving “healthy diets for all,” by reducing consumption of meat and ultra-processed foods, as well as increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables, would help control rising rates of obesity and reduce NCD mortality. Adopting such healthy diets would also greatly contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions: the agriculture sector is responsible for producing a third of emissions, and a reduction on livestock farming would contribute to reducing global warming. Public health nutrition capacity to manage such nutrition programs is still widely lacking, however, and much still needs to be done to improve these programs and their governance.
Maternal Health and Well-Being
Samuel Akombeng Ojong, Bridgette Wamakima, Cheryl A. Moyer, and Marleen Temmerman
Maternal health and well-being refers to the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period, as well as the absence of any morbidities or death either due to pregnancy or its management. Despite making a comparatively late appearance on the international global policy agenda, maternal health and well-being has progressively become a global health policy priority following Deborah Maine’s revolutionary article on maternal mortality. Consequently, key international policy events from Alma Ata to the International Conference on Population and Development events, through the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the last decade have consecrated women’s inalienable right to safe and respectful health services. Also, the growing focus on rights-based care against the backdrop of the need to ensure equity in all communities worldwide has led to an evolution in policy focus, calling on health systems to not only protect women and girls from preventable deaths but to also empower them to thrive, all while recognizing their unique role is ensuring the positive transformation of the communities in which they live. This increasing policy attention has contributed to a disproportionate yet marked reduction in global maternal mortality and morbidity statistics over the last 30 years. However, if the world is to achieve its 2030 SDGs women’s health and gender equality agendas, it is important to recognize that the broad concept of women’s health cannot be limited to the rather narrow window of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. While there are huge gaps in all resource-type settings in promoting and protecting women’s agency and autonomy, the fact remains that in addition to ensuring the availability of and access to high-quality maternal health services, women’s health outcomes are inextricably linked to their decision-making power on key issues such as when to become sexually active, the use of contraception, whether or not they want to achieve pregnancy and childbirth, and access to safe abortion care services. Additionally, the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases and the increasing occurrence of worldwide pandemics are providing novel challenges to the health and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable women and girls, thus creating the need to ensure resilient health systems that are considerate of the rights and wishes of the world’s women and girls.