Blog Posts by Kate Cho

{Malagasy CHV from Anjeva presenting family planning options to a young woman. (Photo Credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH)}Malagasy CHV from Anjeva presenting family planning options to a young woman. (Photo Credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH)

When it comes to contraceptives, having choices is key.

More than 220 million women around the world want to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern methods of contraception.

Reasons for this vary, from family disapproval, to fear of side effects, to infrequent sex. Increasing access to multiple contraceptive options can allay some of these barriers.

Without multiple options, a woman who is dissatisfied with her current method may stop using contraception completely. With more choices, she can switch to another method and have the support she needs to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

Family planning is important not only for women’s health and empowerment, but it also helps reduce pervasive poverty and environmental degradation, and contributes to our goal of an AIDS-free generation. According to the World Health Organization, family planning has the potential to reduce maternal deaths by one-third and reduce newborn, infant, and child deaths by 10 percent.  

{Photo: MSH staff/Tanzania}Photo: MSH staff/Tanzania

Invest in teenage girls. Change the world.

Sylvia, age 16, knew little about HIV & AIDS or reproductive health when she started primary school. Now, she says: “I am not scared by the pressure from boys and other girls to engage in early sex, I know my rights and am determined to fulfill my vision of completing my education.” Sylvia is one of 485 girls in 6 eastern Ugandan schools who received integrated sexual and reproductive health and HIV information.

Today, July 11, we commemorate World Population Day 2016 and the midpoint toward reaching the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) goal to ensure the right of 120 million additional women and girls to access contraception. More than half of the 7 billion people on earth are under the age of 30. Most of the FP2020 focus countries are in the very regions of the world where we find (a) the highest population of youth and (b) more marginalized and disenfranchised young people. In many of the world's poorest countries, people aged 15 to 29 will continue to comprise about half of the population for the next four decades.

 {Photo credit: Matt Martin/MSH}About 20 of the nearly 30 MSH staff attending the 4th annual ICFP gather for the opening ceremony.Photo credit: Matt Martin/MSH

Three weeks ago, nearly 3,500 family planning researchers, program managers, and policymakers came together in Nusa Dua, Indonesia to discuss the latest research findings and best practices on family planning at the 4th International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP). It was the largest gathering of family planning enthusiasts to date.

Nearly 30 MSH staff from 8 countries attended ICFP, showcasing our health systems expertise and experiences in family planning.

{Photo Credit: Sara Holtz/MSH}Photo Credit: Sara Holtz/MSH

As the world begins working toward the newly developed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensuring access to reproductive health supplies must be considered.

More than 100 countries are in the process of adopting or advancing universal health coverage (UHC) mechanisms to achieve the targets set for Goal 3, which calls for “good health and well-being.”

Despite the momentum, 400 million people lack access to at least one of seven life-saving health services. And in 2012, an estimated 222 million women lacked access to effective family planning. FP2020’s goal of enabling 120 million women and girls to use modern contraception requires countries to include sexual and reproductive health services and supplies when discussing health benefits packages under national insurance laws, policies, and other related UHC efforts. Moreover, marginalized populations should be prioritized for free or subsidized care.

{Photo credit: Olumade Badejo/MSH}Photo credit: Olumade Badejo/MSH

Update, 1/11/16: Join MSH at the International Family Planning Conference, January 25-28, 2016, in Indonesia. Get ICFP2016 details here.

Original post continues:

This blog post is a web-formatted version of the Global Health Impact newsletter: Family Planning: The Win-Win-Win for Health (November 2015). (View or share the email version here.) We welcome your feedback and questions in the comments. On social media, use hashtag and tag .  Subscribe

{Photo credit: MSH staff}Photo credit: MSH staff

The teenage years. Changes seem to happen overnight. Puberty. Your first crush. Fighting with a parent. Discovering your identity, your purpose, and your role in the community. A confusing and challenging, yet rewarding, coming of age... an emerging adult.

Half the world’s population is under 30 years old. About 1.8 billion people, the largest generation of youth in history, are between the ages of 10 and 24. In most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, people ages 15 to 29 will continue to comprise about half of the population for the next four decades. How does this unprecedented proportion of young people impact public health, and a community and country’s sustainable development?

Sustainable health outcomes will depend on how we engage and empower our youth.

{Photo by: Mark Tuschman}Photo by: Mark Tuschman

In the poorest, most remote areas of the world, health services are often hard to come by. Communities are marginalized economically and geographically; people often do not seek preventative care and are not reached by primary and secondary health services.  

Reproductive health and family planning messages and services often do not reach these groups. According to demographic and health survey reports, in nearly every country, the poorest quintile also have the highest fertility rates, lowest contraceptive prevalence rates (CPR), and least amount of knowledge of contraception methods. And when crisis strikes, access to basic health services declines even more as resources are diverted to deal with the emergency.  That’s why the theme of this year’s World Population Day, “vulnerable populations in emergencies,” observed July 11, is so important.

During humanitarian crises, women and children are especially vulnerable. More than a year after the start of the largest Ebola outbreak since the disease was discovered, assessments show that the gains that had been made in reproductive, maternal, and child health in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are in danger of regressing.  Even those not affected by Ebola itself have been greatly affected by the diversion of health resources.

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