November 15-18: MSH Promotes Integration and Impact at the International Family Planning Conference in Kampala, Uganda

At the first international conference on family planning in 17 years, MSH is among several leading global health organizations with a strong presence, including an exhibit table, more than 10 presentations and an auxiliary event on health systems strengthening for family planning.

The conference, sponsored by the Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health in the United States and the Makerere School of Public Health in Uganda, is focused on research and best practices in the field. MSH played a strong role in planning the conference, with representatives on both the national and international steering committes as well as the WHO Implementing Best Practices consortium, which was responsible for organizing special events on the third day of the conference.

In keeping with MSH’s focus on health systems strengthening, MSH staff members at the conference are promoting the integration of family planning with other health services and greater attention to family planning impact, with the ultimate goal of saving and improving the lives of women and their communities. MSH supports the conference goal of repositioning family planning on the global health stage, which is urgently needed after several decades of diminishing funding for family planning programs.

MSH is well suited to support this repositioning initiative. It has worked to expand access to family planning and reproductive health services throughout its 38-year history of health systems strengthening, which supports the integration of all major health areas in a package of basic services.

The international community is increasingly aware that programs focused on HIV & AIDS and other epidemic diseases, to which the bulk of global health funding has recently been directed, are incomplete without family planning. This awareness has been bolstered in recent years by new research showing a strong connection between family planning and broader health and development outcomes. MSH’s work is rooted in the best practices supported by this research, which is linked to our mission to close the gap between what we know and what we do in public health.

On the first full day of the conference, Henry Kakande and Elke Konings of the MSH-implemented STRIDES project in Uganda, which is working to reduce maternal and child mortality, spoke about involving districts in a competitive process to select areas in which to deliver family planning service; Keriann Schulkers of MSH’s Center for Health Services presented factors behind unmet need for limiting and spacing births in sub-Saharan Africa; and Dr. Halida Akhter, MSH’s new global lead for family planning and reproductive health, discussed techniques for integrating family planning and HIV & AIDS services.

To close out the first day, MSH hosted an auxiliary event with four panelists representing work in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Colombia, and Egypt, which are among the more than 40 countries in which they have worked. They discussed what it will take to orchestrate fragmented initiatives across health sectors—health care financing, human resources for health, pharmaceutical management, and others—for more effective health systems that provide universal access to family planning and reproductive health services.

During the remaining days of the conference, Tim Allen of MSH’s Leadership, Management and Sustainability Program will star in several events, among them a roundtable on “the missing link”—the management of change to scale up family planning practices. MSH staff will also present on innovations for expanding contraceptive use in rural Afghanistan; NGO and corporate partnerships for engaging men in family planning; integrating healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy into child health service in Rwanda; and the benefits of focusing on the ultimate impact of family planning programs.

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