Building better healthcare systems across the region

3 October 2017

TBILISI, Georgia — The institutionalization of sexual and reproductive health in national action plans and in medical and post-graduate curricula in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region has taken a critical step forward with a three-day workshop held 18-20 July in Tbilisi.

The pilot Master Class in Sexual and Reproductive Health, hosted by UNFPA along with the European Board and College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (EBCOG), represents a cutting-edge advance in institutional capacity-building on this important topic, according to Professor Jacky Nizard, President-Elect of EBCOG.

“This was a major opportunity to bring together professionals in the field of sexual and reproductive health from around Eastern Europe and Central Asia to share experiences and solutions, and eventually to build better healthcare systems for our populations,” said Professor Nizard, who was also one of the teachers of the master class.

UNFPA’s ongoing partnership with EBCOG has already enabled the dissemination of best practices and international standards for sexual and reproductive health management in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. This has included the translation into Russian of the European Standards of Care for Women’s Health and the offering of a scholarship for sexual and reproductive health providers in the region to visit leading Western European institutions.

Nineteen participants from eight countries — Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova and Turkey — attended the Tbilisi workshop, where they learned about European standards and best practices from world experts including EBCOG’s Professor Nizard, Professor Johannes Bitzer of the University of Basel in Switzerland and Professor Sambit Mukhopadhyay of the University of Norwich in the United Kingdom. Group work and networking sessions also allowed the participants to share their challenges and successes and learn from each other’s experiences.

After completing the workshop, participants will go on to promote the training programme to their peers back home. They will also work with their countries’ governments, medical schools and professional associations to build the institutional capacity needed to meet targets on universal access to sexual and reproductive health and on reduction of maternal mortality that the countries have committed to under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Having taken this course will help me communicate more effectively with decision-makers,” said Dr. Berna Dilbaz, a workshop participant from Turkey. “All of us here are sexual and reproductive health practitioners, but the course helped me think about using a more holistic approach to reproductive health to advocate for this work.”

“The participants were extremely attentive, interested and involved,” added Professor Bitzer, who is also a member of the EBCOG Executive Board. “It was evident that they know already a lot about sexual and reproductive health but are eager to learn more and increase their competence to take on further leadership roles.”

Cooperative partnerships for East-West knowledge-sharing and capacity-building are an essential part of UNFPA’s strategy for improving sexual and reproductive health in the region. “The Tbilisi workshop represents a critical opportunity for the participating countries to implement human-rights-based, inclusive actions to deliver sexual and reproductive health for all based on the Sustainable Development Goals,” said UNFPA Deputy Regional Director Ian MacFarlane, who spoke at the opening of the training event.

“We are excited about bringing the world-class expertise of EBCOG to the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, and committed to an ongoing partnership,” said Dr. Tamar Khomasuridze, UNFPA Sexual and Reproductive Health Adviser for the region. “By providing ongoing technical support to the countries in our region, we will work to ensure that the outcomes of the workshop translate into sustainable national actions and inter-country cooperation that increase access to sexual and reproductive health for all and accelerate the progress in the region.”