On November 13, 2012, Boston-area international health and development groups — MSH, Pathfinder International, John Snow, Inc. (JSI), Ibis Reproductive Health, and the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) — came together to host a luncheon discussion on the “London Summit on Family Planning: Where do we go from here?”
Panelists included Monica Kerrigan of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Sandra Jordan of USAID; Kyle Peterson of FSG; and Adrienne Germain, the winner of the United Nations Population Fund’s 2012 Population Award and a fellow at the HSPH. Pathfinder International President and CEO Purnima Mane moderated the conversation.
David Canning, PhD, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences at HSPH and author in the recent series on family planning in The Lancetopened the conversation with a keynote presentation on the economic benefits of family planning. He outlined that the evidence for maternal and child benefits of family planning are strong and that family planning is not only about reducing number of children, it’s about healthy timing and spacing and lower risk births. He said:
“There is no gold standard evidence yet for the economic benefits of family planning but family planning reduces fertility; women’s health, work and earnings increase; and children are healthier and better educated.
Reduced fertility and child mortality lead to an increased proportion of working-age people within the population, with positive outcomes for economic growth.”
Involving Civil Society and Creating a Movement
Monica Kerrigan, Deputy Director of Family Planning at the Gates Foundation, said that making family planning a priority, as Melinda Gates promised a year ago, is an occasion of change in US and around the globe.
“Providing rights of women and girls to determine if, how many children they want to have, is part of a changed moment but an unfinished agenda.
The London Summit doubled funding for family planning but we need to reach out and involve civil society and youth. We need to create that global moment for family planning.
We all have to dream big on where we want to be eight years from now. Can we grow civil society in the south? Youth and civil society need to go to their governments and hold them accountable.”
Access to Information is Key
Kerrigan continued that “we need to keep the mirror up on quality of care: quality information, quality counseling. The highest unmet need for family planning is post-partum time — need to space births by two years. We need to counsel better. One hundred percent of women should have access to this information. I met a woman in Senegal who had her 8th baby and had never heard of family planning- what’s that all about? We need to do better.”
Sandra Jordan, Senior Technical Advisor for Communications, Office of Population and Reproductive Health at USAID said,
“The US has longest history and commitment to family planning and is the largest donor. We are reaching out to our country missions as partners, working closely together, not duplicating work. Let’s hear voices from the global South loud and clear. We need recommendations on how USAID can do family planning work better.”
Public/Private Sector Partnerships
Kyle Peterson, Managing Director, FSG, who published a report on the London Summit called, Private Enterprise for Public Health: Opportunities for Business to Improve Women’s and Children’s Health, said,
“We need to have partnerships between the public and private sector. The private sector can help with innovation and delivery and have shared value in global health. It is not sufficient to develop and sell products, need to be involved in the ecosystem.
We need to involve young people- we haven’t captured their imagination yet regarding family planning or gotten them involved enough. We need to get the excitement back for family planning.”
“Family planning is a human right”
Adrienne Germain said people have now recognized that family planning is a human right. States have obligations to ensure that people have access to services and family planning must be delivered to meet human rights standards. These standards include:
- Choice of method (barrier, hormonal, short term, permanent): Barrier methods have to be more central due to reaching youth who don’t want permanent methods. Both male and female condoms need to be available.
- Fully informed and full consent on the methods and how to use them: There are still too many barriers with spouse approval now. Women need to be supported in changing methods that they don’t like.
- Privacy and confidentiality: Young people have a right to be protected. We need to improve training and supervision of staff to treat clients with respect and dignity.
- Technical medical quality: decent and clean facilities; reasonable hours, access; seating; shelter from rain; screens for privacy.
She also added, “There is no attention being given to women who want to have children. We need to make sure they have safe birth, avoid STDs and have access to safe abortion as needed.”
Germain continued: “[I hope everyone can] keep the vision of Cairo – an integrated package of care grounded in human rights — accessible to all who need it.”
Barbara Ayotte, the author of this post, is director of strategic communications at MSH.