World Contraception Day: Unmet Need and the Numbers

World Contraception Day: Unmet Need and the Numbers

World Contraception Day 2012World Contraception Day 2012

Cross-posted on the K4Health blog. K4Health is a USAID project, led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communication Programs (JHU-CCP), with partners FHI-360 and Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

Worldwide 222 million women have an unmet need for modern contraceptives. That means of those women wanting to delay or prevent pregnancy, 222 million are not using contraceptives.

This number is burned into my brain: 222 million. Let’s put this in perspective.

Currently in the US, there are roughly 156 million women, so the number of women worldwide without access to contraceptives is greater than the entire population of women in the US.

Though the numbers are staggering, there is hope. This year alone has shown great commitments worldwide for increasing funding and access to contraceptives, with a $4.3 billion commitment from donors and developing countries over the next eight years pledged at the July 2012 London Summit on Family Planning. Family planning is coming back in the spotlight nationally with the upcoming US presidential election and worldwide after the London Summit.

Advancements and technological breakthroughs in contraceptives are also changing the landscape of contraceptive use worldwide. Better or less expensive emergency contraceptive options, implants, vaginal rings, new forms of diaphragms, female condoms, and many more options are available but limited in some parts of the developing world. Since 2008, 42 million more women are accessing contraceptive methods in the developing world, but population growth is also on the rise.

To stay on top of unmet need as well as population growth, the global community will need to commit to making advancements in at least two areas: medical advancements and changing behavior and social norms around contraceptive use.  Though basic in theory, the combination of these factors is complicated. To put it simply, you would need to do the following: make better contraceptive technologies, reduce costs of technologies to increase supply, change behavior to increase demand, and alter social norms to create an environment where modern contraceptive use is acceptable and even encouraged.

I also think it’s critical to understand why contraceptives are so important. The use of contraceptives will reduce unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and maternal and infant mortality. This will give women the freedom to have productive lives; controlling their fertility can allow women to further their education and be a larger part of the community. My colleague Liz Futrell writes about her own successes that resulted from her ability to avert unwanted pregnancies and pursue her own career goals.

Today is World Contraception Day, and I hope we can all continue to bring awareness to the subject and strive to bring those 222 million women with unmet need down to zero.

Rebecca Shore is the K4Health communications specialist at JHU-CCP.

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Fritz Lolagne
Thanks Rachel and Rebecca for your point of vue on the subject. It will take time but with an invasive community program on men education and a vasectomy training program for young Drs. in these patriarchal societies we will make the difference.
For two reasons, I definitely believe that an emphasis should be bring today on Surgical Contraception. First of all, most women in need for a modern family planing method have already completed their families. Second, there is no big involvement of men in empowering women by choosing vasectomy when it come for them to control permanently their fertility. What's a big gift we could offer the futur generation helping men and women controlling their family size!
Rachel Hassinger
Thanks for the comment, Fritz. Involving men in family planning is key.
R Ashore
I think both of your points are great Fritz. Two things are important, women are the solution, but we need men to get there. We can't forget how many societies are still very patriarchal and that most of the leaders of the world are men. I hope men will continue to be involved in the family planning process and the road to women's rights and equality.

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