German Company Promotes Women’s Health

June 4, 2004

WITH 600 new cases of uterine cancera year in Costa Rica, 50% of all pregnanciesin Latin America unplanned, and less thanhalf of Latin American women makingannual visits to the gynecologist, celebratorsof May 28’s Day of Action for Women’sHealth had their work cut out for them.A German pharmaceutical company gota head start on the action May 24 when itannounced a campaign topromote reproductivehealth and family planningto people throughoutCosta Rica.Schering company isgiving workshops inschools and offices to educateyoung women andmen about responsiblesex, various types of birthcontrol, sexually transmitteddiseases (STDs) andthe importance of seeinggynecologists annually.The company specializesin products for women’shealth such as hormonereplacement therapy and birth control.NOT only are young Costa Ricanwomen threatened by STDs and teenagepregnancy, they are endangering themselvesby not seeking professional help with theirsexual health, according to AdrianaMárquez, Central American coordinator forSchering’s new campaign, “Caring forYourself is Loving Yourself.”“Women never think of going to thegynecologist when they have problems,instead they just ask friends and end up self medicating,”she said.Irregular bleeding and premenstrual syndromeare often ignored, according toSchering officials, who also said not enoughthought is given to birth control selectionand sexually transmitted infections are oftenmistaken for vaginal infections and treatedwith over-the-counter ointments, essentiallyallowing them to go untreated.THIS overall neglect of women’s healthand the alarming rates inunplanned pregnanciesand STDs in the regionprompted Schering officialsto bring their programto high schools,universities, businessesand community centers,particularly in high-riskareas.The campaign wasoriginally started inArgentina in 1992.Despite statistics thatteenagers account for onein five pregnancies inCosta Rica, Schering hashad problems bringingtheir workshops directly to public highschools.“The Ministry of Education has not exactlyopened the door for us to talk directly tostudents,” said Christian Naumann,Schering’s Central America general manager.Instead, Schering doctors and nurses havetrained public school teachers and administrators,who can then incorporate the informationinto ministry-approved sex-education lessons.“BUT we haven’t given up hope that wewill be able to talk directly to kids in thefuture,” Naumann said.Schering is also working with theMinistry of Public Health and the SocialSecurity System (Caja) in its campaign.Company representatives have alreadyoffered their information to nurses in numberof areas, particularly in the San Joséneighborhoods of Hatillo, Goicoechea,Desamparados, San Francisco, León XIIIand La Carpio.“When a teenager becomes a mother, itnot only changes her destiny, but that of herentire family,” Naumann said.Teenage mothers often end up pregnantagain, and by their early 20s have two orthree children, Naumann said. After droppingout of school, they are uneducated andhard to employ, adding stress to the family.FURTHERMORE, 55% of youngmothers do not receive any kind of medicalattention, according to the Costa RicanDemographic Association. This threatens analready at-risk population – of all the babieswho die in Costa Rica, 55% are born premature,and of those, 74% are born to mothersunder the age of 20, according to the Caja.In addition, the likelihood of pregnancycausing death in the mother increases by400% for teenage mothers.These statistics have inspired Scheringto offer its workshops to any business ororganization that is interested.The business also launched a new freehealth line for questions about reproductivehealth and birth control: (800) 506-5555.

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