Right now in Kampala, Uganda a group of experts are gathered to discuss a topic that has gone out of fashion of late, but a topic that might be vitally important to achieving reductions in both child and maternal mortality.

A recent high-level meeting on the topic by Minsters of Health called it “one of the most cost-effective development investments”. This intervention has been singled out as a priority in dozens of international proclamations, programs of action, declarations, and even a UN convention (the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) dating back over 40 years.

The intervention is considered low-tech, low-cost, and safe and has been used by billions of people, and yet almost 200 million women who want the service do not currently have access to it. What is it? Family planning.

There are a lot of reasons why promoting family planning has fallen off the radar, including a sordid history based on the aggressive implementation of family planning in a few countries (e.g. India and China) and increased focus on other health issues, and apparently our inability to focus on any one area for more than a few years.

But there is growing interest in addressing the issue again, perhaps due to the fact that too little progress has been made on certain MDGs, or perhaps due to the fact that the benefits of decreased fertility are now being seen in many countries where family planning programs have been successful.

Regardless for the reasons, the increased attention is welcomed: in many countries, contraceptive prevalence rates remain low and the unmet need for contraceptives remains high. Both demand and supply factors are likely explanations for the low use, so there will be no silver bullet, but we need to do a lot more to better understand this vitally important health intervention. Let’s hope this conference helps to make this old topic new, and interesting, once again.

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1 Response » to “What is old may become new again”

  1. Yael says:

    Karen,
    Thanks for this post! An article in the NYTimes recently discussed this in Afghanistan (thought you might appreciate the link): http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/world/asia/15mazar.html
    (it's a little melodramatic, in my opinion but an interesting case study nonetheless)

    Yael

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