The past two decades are marked with extensive national and international efforts to improve reproductive health across Central Asia. Focused primarily upon improving familiarity with modern contraception, these programs coincide with significant increases in marital contraceptive use and declining fertility. Yet, improvements among other indicators of reproductive health, including broad based contraceptive familiarity, accurate knowledge relating to sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and access to medical care, remain modest. Substantial differentials in reproductive health remain by age, education, and rural/urban residence in the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Using Demographic and Health Surveys and Multi-Cluster Indicator Surveys from 1999 through 2011, public health reports, governmental records and interviews with clients and health providers across the region, Cynthia Buckley re-examines “improvements” in reproductive health, tracing patterns of improvement across demographic, social and cultural sub groups within each country. Findings indicate persistently poor reproductive health knowledge, particularly among the young, unmarried, non-titular and rural residents of Central Asia. These results raise serious questions concerning the efficacy of program interventions in the region, the responsiveness of programs to previous criticisms in the area of reproductive health in the Middle East and South Asia and the success of reproductive health partnerships with authoritarian regimes.
Cynthia Buckley is Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to her arrival at Illinois, she was a faculty member of both the Department of Sociology and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests are in social demography, methodology, global health, international migration, Eurasia, and reproductive health. Her publications include Migration, Homeland, and Belonging in Eurasia (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), which she edited with Blair Ruble and Erin Hofmann. She is currently completing a multi-year National Science Foundation (NSF) project on the emergence of the Eurasian Migration System. Her next project will examine changing population and health patterns in Central Asia, and their implications for economic and political security.