Family Planning

{Photo credit: Sarah Lindsay/MSH}Photo credit: Sarah Lindsay/MSH

Cross-posted with permission from the LMG Blog.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Leadership, Management & Governance Project (LMG), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), is launching the East Africa Women's Mentoring Network. We are calling upon women leaders who have worked in family planning and reproductive health as service providers, midwives, program managers, policy makers, teachers, advocates, and other relevant positions to support the aspirations of younger women. We are seeking mentees interested in learning from seasoned professionals and mentors with experience, wisdom, and enthusiasm.

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

Family planning is not abortion.

If this were understood, we could stop the discussion here. Decades of debate and wrangling over women’s access to contraceptives could end. But the myth that family planning equals abortion fuels policies and practices that block women’s access to health services.

One such policy is The Global Gag Rule (or Mexico City Policy). Coined by Population Action International as "The Policy That Never Dies", The Global Gag Rule bans organizations that receive US public or government funding from using non-US funds to provide (or even refer to) abortion services—even if those services are legal in those countries. When the Global Gag Rule was enforced, some of our partners struggled to provide life-saving services to women in need. These organizations could no longer receive US funding for providing any health services, because they were also providing abortion services that were legal in the country. 

In reality, family planning helps reduce abortion. And many women won't need to abort, if they have the family planning information and services they need.

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman.}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman.

This post originally appeared on the Community of Practice on Scale-up and Gender, Policy, and Measurement and US Agency for International Development (USAID)'s Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project Blog. Management Sciences for Health (MSH) leads the USAID-funded LMG project with a consortium of partners.

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman, Kenya.}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman, Kenya.

Today, September 26, is World Contraception Day. The Family Planning 2020 (FP 2020) Initiative says the vision for the day "is a world where every pregnancy is wanted. Its mission is to improve the awareness of contraception to enable young people to make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health." We share part two of our interview with Dr. Fabio Castaño, MSH’s global technical lead of family planning (FP) and reproductive health, in celebration of World Contraception Day. Join the conversation on social media with hashtag .

Read Choice: Part One

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

MSH spoke with Fabio Castaño, MD, MPH, global technical lead of family planning and reproductive health about MSH’s approach to family planning and what will define the future of family planning and global health. Below is part one of the conversation. 

What is MSH’s approach to family planning and reproductive health?

[Dr. Fabio Castaño.]Dr. Fabio Castaño.Fabio:

First of all, I have to tell you that MSH has been working on family planning [FP] for over 40 years. Our first-ever international program was working with Korea! We supported their successful story of making FP an essential part of public health activities. At that time, we worked on FP from a standpoint of population control. Then, to help improve the health situation, and also contributing to reducing poverty. So, that is an interesting piece of history for MSH.

 {Photo credit: Gwenn Dubourthoumieu.}Abuja National Hospital, Nigeria.Photo credit: Gwenn Dubourthoumieu.

In years to come we will look back on the summer of 2014 and recall the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths campaign as a turning point in our struggle to reduce maternal, newborn, and child mortality and morbidity. USAID announced this summer that it is realigning $2.9 billion of the Agency’s resources to refocus on high-impact programs with proven track records to save women, newborns, and children under five.

 {Photo credit: Sarah Lindsay/MSH.}Youth Delegates arrive at the Magam Ruhunupura International Convention Centre (MRICC) in Hambantota, Sri Lanka.Photo credit: Sarah Lindsay/MSH.

The World Conference on Youth (WCY2014) is bringing together over 1,500 youth delegates, ages 18 to 29, from May 6-10, 2014, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for thematic policy roundtables to create an outcome document ("Colombo Action Plan") that will state the position of mainstreaming youth in the post-2015 development agenda.

On May 7, the Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project will host a side event with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and the International Youth Alliance on Family Planning (IYAFP), titled, “Building Youth Leadership for Family Planning in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”

The side event (18h30–20h00 in room C2) will support young people’s leadership potential, capacities, and abilities to address health issues that directly and uniquely affect them and contribute leadership skills for the next generation of family planning and global health leaders.

 {Photo credit: Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH).}Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, chief of party of MSH Nigeria (right), and Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist (left), participate in the family planning discussion in Washington, DC.Photo credit: Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH).

On December 3, Management Sciences for Health participated in an event organized by Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) on the importance of family planning for reducing maternal deaths and improving child survival. The informative Capitol Hill panel discussion (Where Do Christians Stand on Family Planning? Voices from the Global South) dispelled several misconceptions about Christian views on family planning and examined the under-reported role that many Christian organizations play in this sector. Panelists addressed two key myths.

Myth: Family planning equals abortion

Reverend Richard Cizik, the President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, said this myth is the most persistent and inaccurate. In fact, family planning encompasses a range of health interventions ranging from healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, counseling and education, breastfeeding, and contraceptive use.

{Photo by Warren Zelman.}Photo by Warren Zelman.

This post also appeared on Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists Blog and on Frontline Health Workers Coalition's website.

In a week and a half, as a team of our colleagues arrive in Ethiopia for this year’s International Conference on Family Planning, others will already be in Brazil for the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health. This year’s HRH Forum addresses universal health coverage (UHC), a concept which continues to gain momentum as the focus of global health efforts from institutions like the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO).

It’s symbolic that these two meetings are happening half a world apart: as movements around family planning, health workforce and UHC have advanced, there has been too little dialogue and collaboration across these communities.

 {Photo credit: MSH}The manager of a community health center dispenses family planning commodities in Mali.Photo credit: MSH

Earlier this month, NASA confirmed that Voyager 1 reached the border of the solar system. This momentous occasion is a major milestone in space exploration. As we close World Contraception Day (WCD2013), September 26, there are many lessons we can learn from Voyager on our journey beyond WCD2013 toward access for voluntary family planning for all.

For those who are too young to remember or have little interest in space exploration, suffice it to say that so far no human attempt to learn about our solar system has given us so much knowledge about  planets, rings, and satellites, as Voyager 1, NASA's biggest planetary expedition, launched 36 years ago.

What can the international public health community learn from Voyager 1 this WCD2013?

Lesson 1: How to make a dream possible by understanding the facts and setting goals.

Voyager 1 started with a dream of reaching our solar system’s big planets and confirming  the few facts we knew about Jupiter and Saturn. NASA set the course for a meticulous scientific goal that resulted in four planets explored and 22 fascinating moons discovered.

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