Blog Global Health Center Health Equity

Local and global period poverty

Written by Victoria Wright, BA candidate, Washington University in St. Louis and Summer Pediatric Research in Global Health Translation (SPRIGHT) Scholar in the 2022 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

An illustration by Jeannie Phan that depicts the high cost of menstrual products contributing to period poverty

As part of the  Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public and Global Health Track seminar series, I attended an online journal club presentation led by Anne Sebert Kuhlman, PhD, MPH, and a fellow program student, Isha Yardi.  Sebert Kuhlman is an associate professor of Behavioral Science and Health Education in the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University. In her talk, Sebert Kuhlman explained the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1End poverty in all its forms everywhere, and how it relates to menstrual hygiene management. 

Menstrual hygiene management refers to the ability for menstruating individuals to use clean, absorbent material that can be changed when needed to collect menstrual blood.

Sebert Kuhlman began her talk by outlining SDG 1, End poverty in all its forms everywhere. Today, 10% of the world’s population (more than 700 million people) struggle to meet even the most basic necessities, such as health and education. Sebert Kuhlman is working to meet the initiatives in SDG 1 through period poverty advocacy initiatives with the Dignity Period, an organization started in Northern Ethiopia. Sebert Kuhlman’s work in providing access to adequate menstrual hygiene products in Ethiopia prompted her to explore the unmet menstrual hygiene needs of low-income women and high school girls in St. Louis.

 We later discussed the article, Period Product Insecurity, School Absenteeism, and use of School Resources to Obtain Period Products among High School Students in St. Louis, Missouri, detailing a positive relationship between a menstrual hygiene intervention and girls’ school attendance. The results of a self-administered survey revealed that 64.4% of respondents reported period product insecurity. Additionally, 58% were food insecure and 33.6% reported missing school due to period product insecurity. Through further discussion, it was revealed that period absenteeism and product insecurity are intersectional issues regarding public health, human rights, and equity.

By 2030, SDG 1 seeks to guarantee that all individuals, especially the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources and access to essential services. I am eager to see how the field of menstrual hygiene improves in the future, and I appreciated the time that Sebert Kuhlman and Yardi took to inform future public health leaders about the importance of period poverty and its continuing research.