Family planning back on the agenda

Posted: 15 November 2009

In an attempt to refocus world attention on family planning, and its contribution to development, population and environmental problems, over 1,200 leading policy-makers, academics and health professional are meeting in Kampala, Uganda, from 15-18 November. It will be the largest meeting on the topic since the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, 15 years ago, and reflects a new concern about these issues in the light of climate change and the growing pressures on natural resources, including water and food security.

Co-sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Makerere University School of Public Health, the International Conference on Family Planning: Research and Best Practices is supported by more than 30 organizations that, together with the Implementing Best Practices Initiative, will see that new knowledge is transformed into action to improve the health and wealth of families and communities everywhere.

"Family planning has been a development and a public health success," says Werner Haug, Director of the Technical Division of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, who will give a keynote speech at The International Conference on Family Planning: Research and Best Practices. "Giving people access to voluntary family planning saves lives and can help break the cycle of poverty, slow population growth and ease the pressure on the environment. It is a cost-effective development investment."

A group of women hold their newborns at a family planning clinic in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: 2001 Hugh Rigby/CCP, Courtesy of Photoshare
A group of women hold their newborns at a family planning clinic in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: 2001 Hugh Rigby/CCP, Courtesy of Photoshare
Family planning must have higher priority. Clinic in Kampala, Uganda.© Hugh Rigby/CCP, Courtesy of Photoshare
Since the 1960s, family planning has helped reduce fertility in developing countries from an average of six births per woman to three. More than 200 million women worldwide currently seek to delay or avoid pregnancy, but lack safe and effective means to family planning. In some countries, the unmet need for family planning outruns the actual use, and the United Nations estimates that by 2050, contraceptive demand will grow by 40 per cent as record numbers of young people enter their reproductive ages.

Despite decades of research and field experience with successful family planning programmes, global attention to this health intervention has dramatically declined in the past 15 years. This has led to less government support and funding for family planning programmes, risking couples' ability to space their births to their families' benefit.

Mr. Haug calls on governments, organizations and civil society to ensure universal access to reproductive health by 2015 - and to back this goal with political commitment and financial investments. "If the Millennium Development Goals are to be met and people are to live and prosper, the international community must place reproductive health and family planning on the top of the development agenda," he says.

Worldwide, 200 million women seek to prevent an unplanned pregnancy but are not using contraception. The United Nations estimates that by 2050 contraceptive demand will grow by 40 per cent as record numbers of young people enter the prime reproductive ages. Despite decades of research and programmatic experience with successful family planning programmes, global attention to this health intervention has dramatically declined in the past 15 years. This has resulted in less government support and funding for family planning programmes, risking couples' ability to time and space their births to their families' benefit.

At the International Conference on Family Planning participants will re-affirm the importance of family planning in the context of human development and re-commit to the vision and realization of universal access to family planning.

Presentations will cover new research, including research in contraceptive technology and family planning issues such as integrating contraception and HIV prevention; male options for family planning; and contraceptive commodity security. Participants will also discuss and seek the way forward, reaffirm the importance of family planning and recommit to the vision and realization of universal access to family planning.