News Release

Centring sexual and reproductive health and justice in the global COVID-19 response

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

April 9, 2020 -- The Lancet commentary "Centring sexual and reproductive health and justice in the global COVID-19 response" highlights the detrimental impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic response on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The piece emphasizes the threat to SRH services, caused by policies designating these services as non-essential and diverting resources, and calls for vigilance from the SRH community to prevent access to these services from being lost. "Global responses to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic are converging with pervasive, existing sexual and reproductive health and justice inequities to disproportionately impact the health, wellbeing, and economic stability of women, girls, and vulnerable populations," writes Terry McGovern, Chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, and co-authors.

Highlighting the disproportionate social and economic burden on women, girls, and vulnerable populations exacerbated by the pandemic, the authors argue that "a sexual and reproductive health and justice framework--one that centers human rights, acknowledges intersecting injustices, recognizes power structures, and unites across identities--is essential for monitoring and addressing the inequitable gender, health, and social effects of COVID-19.

A multi-disciplinary group of academics and practitioners, including epidemiologists, health care workers, lawyers, and community-based organizers, the authors have expertise in sexual and reproductive health service provision and access, gender-based violence, global humanitarian response, human rights, disease surveillance, stigma, and the specific needs of women, girls, and vulnerable populations.

"Advocates must continue to fight the exploitation of the COVID-19 crisis to further an agenda that restricts access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, particularly abortion, and targets immigrants and adolescents," noted McGovern, who is also director of the Program on Global Health Justice and Governance at Columbia Mailman School.


Coauthors are Kelli Stidham Hall, Goleen Samari, Samantha Garbers, Sara E. Casey, Rachel T. Moresky, and Micaela Elvira Martinez, of Columbia Mailman School of Public Health; Dazon Dixon Diallo, SisterLove; and Miriam Orcutt, Institute for Global Health, University College London.

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Columbia Mailman School is the seventh largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its nearly 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change and health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with more than 1,300 graduate students from 55 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Columbia Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers, including ICAP and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit

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