September 16, 2015

Five Big Questions for the Future of Global Family Planning

Written by Pape Gaye, President and CEO, and Roy Jacobstein, Senior Medical Advisor, IntraHealth International

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

After the smallpox vaccine and the green revolution, modern contraceptives are one of global development’s biggest game-changers.

It’s no coincidence that as global use of modern contraceptives rose from 55% in 1990 to 63% in 2010, global maternal mortality fell by a staggering 45%. In 2013 alone, contraceptives prevented 77 million unintended pregnancies, 24 million unsafe abortions and the deaths of 125,000 women.

For less than the cost of a cheeseburger per American per year, we could reduce the world’s population growth by 500 million.

Countries are catching on to the demographic dividends that come with robust family planning programs, which can help turn a low-income country into a middle-income country. (Just look at Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore.)

In fact, for less than the cost of a cheeseburger per American per year, we could reduce the world’s population growth by 500 million, saving mothers’ and children’s lives everywhere and helping poor countries prosper like never before.

Over the next 15 years, as countries work toward the new global Sustainable Development Goals, we could make even faster progress. We could see more women empowered to make decisions about their own health and futures. Parents who can achieve the family sizes they want. And economic growth that outpaces population growth, resulting in healthier societies.

So what’s the holdup? And who’s being left behind?

Some regions—particularly West Africa, where maternal death rates are among the world’s highest and contraceptive use among the lowest—are missing out on this progress.

The reasons are complex: inequality, poverty, a shortage of health workers, cultural norms around family size, and Ebola, to name a few.

So before we reach the Shangri-La of universal health coverage and family planning services for all, we have some questions to answer.

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