Leading sexual and reproductive health clinician, Dr Chelsea Morroni, appointed to improve family planning in South Africa

March 21, 2017


At the beginning of March, Dr Morroni began her secondment to work with us on family planning service provision in South Africa, as part of our EU funded project.

We are delighted to welcome Dr Chelsea Morroni, a Sexual and Reproductive Health clinician, as a part time secondee, to assist us with our family planning work in South Africa. Chelsea will be providing training and mentorship to a specialist family planning nurse and will strengthen family planning service provision under our EU funded project in Limpopo province, which will improve community knowledge of, and access to, family planning rights and services.

Dr Morroni has extensive experience in strengthening family planning, and sexual and reproductive health service provision more broadly, in resource poor settings. She has lived and worked in this field in southern Africa for nearly 20 years. She currently directs the Botswana Sexual and Reproductive Health Initiative, and is a medical advisor to the Botswana Family Welfare Organisation (the only non-governmental provider of family planning services in Botswana) and is a special advisor to the Botswana Ministry of Health Family Planning Programme.

In addition to having experience of public health programmes in developing countries, Dr Morroni also brings with her an extensive academic pedigree. She has a BA in social anthropology from Harvard University, an MPH and medical degree from the University of Cape Town, an MPhil and PhD in epidemiology from Columbia University, a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a Diploma in Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare from the UK Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare. She is currently appointed in the Institute for Women’s Health and the Institute for Global Health, University College London, with honorary appointments at the University of Cape Town, the University of Botswana, the Botswana Harvard Aids Institute Partnership and the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

Under our two year EU funded project, we will be working closely with partner organisation, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme, to empower two marginalised rural communities. The project will address both family planning and other human rights issues, as community members are generally unaware of their sexual and reproductive rights. Indeed, it is notable that the South African constitution refers to the right to access health care, and expressly states that this includes reproductive health services. The project focus is to not only promote the exercise of these and other rights, but provide training to clinicians and others, to ensure that when services are requested, they can in fact be provided.

The project will provide community members with vital family planning knowledge, and enable them to hold their local government and service providers to account if services do not meet the levels which department mandates require. Project staff will work with local clinics to address barriers to family planning, improve service provision and contribute to health system strengthening.

These actions are extremely important given the local patriarchal social structures, a high level of gender inequality and appalling levels of violence against women and girls. A 2013 study demonstrated that 77% of local women had experienced gender based violence and 57% of girls interviewed in a 2011 study reported that their first sexual encounter had been forced. Few of these girls or women are fully informed of their sexual and reproductive health rights, and as a result they often do not access services, such as accessing Post Exposure Prophylaxis or emergency contraception. We are therefore delighted that Dr Morroni is joining our team and will be making a valuable contribution to improving the sexual and reproductive health of the poor rural communities at our South African project site.