Australia needs a nationally-coordinated strategy and plan with regards to policy, research, and data. Current approaches address each sexual and reproductive health strategy separately, and this means that issues of sexuality, sex and reproduction fall through the gaps and interventions are piece-meal. This scattered and ad hoc approach also applies to the collection of data, research, and analysis.
The institutions that collect data and undertake research and analysis on sexual and reproductive health do not collect this valuable information in one place or gather the data together into coherent sexual and reproductive health assessments. Without such coordination, it is also more difficult to determine the linkages and the gaps in policy, data and research and therefore be able to truly prioritise where action is most needed and would be most effective.
At the national level, the Commonwealth uses health indicators that do not necessarily capture the impact of SRH interventions (for example, using avoidable hospitalisations to assess the effectiveness of primary health care). Issues arise with key data collections because of inconsistencies in collection or data not collected across different states and territories especially in relation to socio-demographics, pregnancy outcomes, and risk behaviours [i]. Stratification by age and demographic is extremely difficult on a national basis.
SH&FPA supports the establishment of a national coordinating mechanism to bring together Commonwealth Departments to provide a holistic overview of the various realms of activity to improve sexual and reproductive health, and to provide a mechanism of tracking progress across strategies and different agencies.
SH&FPA and the Public Health Association of Australia has produced documents calling for immediate action on these issues including:
- Time for a National Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy in Australia: A Call to Action
- Background paper for A Call to Action
For more discussion of the current status of the data available in regard to the reproductive and sexual health of the community please see Family Planning NSW’s Reproductive and Sexual Health in Nsw South Wales and Australia: Differentials, Trends and Assessment of Data Sources.