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Copenhagen Consensus Report Argues For Expanding Family Planning Programs In ‘High-Fertility’ Countries

As part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the implications of population growth on development indicators. In a research paper released on Thursday “for Copenhagen Consensus 2012, Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania looks at sub-Saharan African nations that, among high-fertility countries, make the dominant contribution to world population growth,” he notes, adding, “‘High-fertility’ countries today account for about 38 percent of the 78 million people that are added annually to the world population, despite the fact that they are home to only 18 percent of the population.”

UNFPA Director Urges India To Address Family Planning Needs

India “has to actively and aggressively address the issue of family planning” in order to improve human development indicators, including health, education and living standards, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said Wednesday, Reuters reports. “India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030,” but, “despite its impressive economic growth over the last two decades, it has failed to substantially reduce hunger as well as child and maternal mortality rates,” the news service writes, noting that “[a]bout 60 percent of Indian women have no access to family planning services.”

U.N.-Sponsored Report Finds 1 In 10 Infants Born Prematurely Worldwide

Fifteen million infants, or nearly one in 10 worldwide, “are born premature every year, and 1.1 million of those infants die, according to a U.N.-sponsored report released Wednesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Premature birth is the leading cause of death for newborn infants and is on the rise globally, said the report led by the March of Dimes, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization,” the news service writes (5/2). “For the report, preterm was defined as 37 weeks of completed gestation or less, the standard World Health Organization definition,” USA Today notes (Healy, 5/3). According to the report, “[p]reterm births account for 11.1 percent of the world’s live births, 60 percent of them in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” and, “[i]n the poorest countries, on average, 12 percent of babies are born too soon, compared to nine percent in higher-income countries,” the U.N. News Centre writes (5/2).

Questions Raised Over U.K. DfID Funding And Sterilization In India

A Wall Street Journal editorial addresses reports published on April 14 in the Guardian alleging that the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID) funded a program in India that “has ‘forcibly sterilized Indian women and men’ — a practice India supposedly left behind in the 1970s,” the editorial states. “DfID issued a statement objecting to the Guardian’s report, saying that its funding was not meant to be going to ‘sterilization’ centers, only to helping ‘women access a mix of reversible methods of family planning,’ such as contraceptive pills, and to ‘improve the quality of services,’” the editorial writes, adding, “DfID says it has also offered technical support to help Indian authorities crack down on forced sterilization.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “A DfID official, who declined to be named, clarified to us that the national Indian program funded by British taxpayers does include voluntary sterilization, but that sterilization specifically is ‘not part of what we fund,’” and “[h]e added that DfID will end its support for the national Indian program next year and will focus family-planning aid only on state governments in India’s poorest regions” (5/1).

CNN Reports On China’s ‘One-Child Policy,’ Implications For Women

CNN reports on how “[t]he issue of forced abortions — and in some cases, forced sterilizations — in China has seized the spotlight in recent days with news of escaped activist Chen Guangcheng,” who “rose to fame in the late 1990s because of his advocacy for what he calls victims of abusive practices, such as forced abortions, by Chinese family planning officials.” China’s so-called “one-child policy has been blamed for abuses,” the news service reports. The news service writes, “In some cases, advocates say, fetuses identified as female are aborted, … abandoned, left to die or raised as orphans,” as “Chinese traditionally prefer boys over girls.” CNN describes several reports from women’s health advocates working in China of women undergoing forced abortion and sterilization; a report from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “created by Congress to monitor human rights and the rule of law in China”; and the State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report, the news service notes.

Guttmacher Institute Media Update Examines Impact Of U.S. Family Planning Assistance Abroad

The Guttmacher Institute on Friday released a media update examining the impact of U.S. international family planning assistance. The update highlights the benefits supported by $610 million “appropriated for U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs for FY 2012” and states, “These gains would be seriously jeopardized if this already modest funding for the program were to be cut again,” noting that “reductions of different magnitudes would have proportional effects” (4/27).

U.N. SG Ban Commends India For Working To Improve Public Health

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during travel to India met with Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nazi Azad and “commend[ed] the country’s progress on health,” its “continued efforts towards achieving universal health coverage,” and its “commitment to the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health,” highlighting “its innovative programs in this area” and “the need to do more to promote the well-being of women and children,” the U.N. News Centre reports (4/26). Recognizing the “work still to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Ban said he would like to showcase India’s experiences and best practices in dealing with maternal and child health issues for others to follow,” according to the IANS/Daily News. Ban also “said [U.N.] member nations … are ready to help India in dealing with polio, malaria, tetanus, measles and HIV transmission-related mortality,” the news service notes (4/26).

Melinda Gates Discusses Inclusion Of Contraception In Global Health Agenda

In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, discusses including contraception on the global health agenda. “I have learned a lot from following the reaction to the talk I gave at TEDxChange two weeks ago,” she writes, adding, “Because I’m so passionate about the issue, I’m excited to see so many people talking about it online. The more people talk, I think, the more they’ll realize how much agreement there is around the basic argument that birth control saves lives and helps families build a better future.” She concludes, “I believe in giving women the methods they want to use so they can do what’s best for themselves and their families. … I hope we can agree that there really is no controversy around this idea” (4/26).

Royal Society Report Calls For Renewed Global Action To Slow Population Growth, Reduce Consumption

“Over-consumption in rich countries and rapid population growth in the poorest both need to be tackled to put society on a sustainable path,” according to a report by an expert group convened by the Royal Society, BBC News reports (Black, 4/25). The report “concludes that tackling global inequality is central to solving the problem of too many people exploiting dwindling natural resources,” the Independent writes (Connor, 4/26). “‘Population and consumption should no longer be regarded as separate issues,’ said Sir John Sulston, chair of the international working group that prepared the study,” according to the Financial Times (Cookson, 4/26). “Firm recommendations include giving all women access to family planning, moving beyond [gross domestic product (GDP)] as the yardstick of economic health and reducing food waste,” BBC notes.

Allowing Countries To Use PEPFAR Funding For Voluntary Contraception For Women Aligns With GHI’s ‘Women-Centered’ Approach

“PEPFAR has said it will use” nearly $1.5 billion in unspent aid “to invest in commodities (condoms, HIV rapid test kits and voluntary medical male circumcision kits), systems and institutions, and program strengthening,” Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International, writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Here’s one idea that would offer a huge return on investment and save the lives of millions: voluntary contraception for women,” she continues, adding, “Voluntary contraception has been called ‘the best kept secret in HIV prevention’ and has a proven evidence base.”