Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Conceptualization of the Life-Span Development Theory: Relevance for Sexual and Reproductive Health in Ghana

Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Conceptualization of the Life-Span Development Theory: Relevance for Sexual and Reproductive Health in Ghana

Article excerpt

1. Introduction and Background

Globally, health related issues, particularly sexual and reproductive health concerns need to be addressed in order to achieve sustainable development. This is because sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is as important to peoples' quality of life as other key aspects of health, such as eating, sleeping and physical activity (Health Canada, 1999). This is true regardless of age, gender, culture, abilities, sexual orientation, or other characteristics that make up peoples' identity (Health Canada, 1999). Since both female and male sexual and reproductive ill- health concerns threaten international development targets (Institute of Development Studies, 2011), these concerns have increasingly become part of international and national development discourses (Roudi-Fahimi & Ashford, 2008). Accordingly, there is pressing need for development experts and the international community to recognize the importance of sexual and reproductive health for improving well-being and achieving other social and development goals.

Throughout history sexuality and reproduction have been vital aspects of personal identity and the creation of fulfilling personal and social relationships (Bernstein & Hansen, 2006). However, the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) marked a major breakthrough for sexual and reproductive health in international economic and social development circles. At the conference, reproductive health was defined as "a state of complete physical mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in all matters related to the reproductive tract, its functions and processes" (World Health Organization, WHO, 2002). The Cairo definition was internationally accepted because it recognized that SRH affects and is affected by the economic circumstances, education, employment opportunities, family structures, as well as political, religious and legal environment (Roudi- Fahimi & Ashford, 2008).

Sexual health is the experience of the ongoing process of physical, emotional and sociocultural well-being as it relates to sexuality (The Pan American Health Organization and WHO, 2001). Sexual and reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so (Odoi-Agyarko, 2003; Roudi-Fahimi & Ashford, 2008). Although Ghana formulated her first national population policy in 1969, the conference paved the way for the policy to be revised to incorporate more comprehensive issues (Odoi-Agyarko, 2003). In 1996, the first national reproductive health policy was formulated in Ghana to provide the framework for guiding reform and development in the provision of sexual and reproductive health services (Odoi- Agyarko, 2003). Also, the policy aimed at (a) making reproductive health services accessible and affordable and (b) clarifying the roles of various agencies involved in the provision and financing of reproductive health services.

Currently, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda broadly recognizes the importance of sexual and reproductive health issues. Three of the eight goals are directly linked to sexual and reproductive health issues (reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases) and the others have a close relationship with health (Fathalla & Fathalla, 2008; WHO, 2008). Sexual and reproductive health is a broad concept about health, as well as well-being in issues regarding sexual relations, pregnancies, and births (Roudi-Fahimi & Ashford, 2008). Over the years, in the developed world, improvements have been made in the area of sexual and reproductive health, particularly, contraceptive use (Chaya, Johnston, Engelman, Ethelston & Greene, 2001). However, in developing countries, most married women do not have access to modern contraceptives and millions of women and adolescent girls persistently suffer from death and disabilities during pregnancy and childbirth (United Nations Population Fund, UNPF, 2008). …

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