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Media Coverage Of Potential Link Between Hormonal Contraception, HIV Risk Needed More ‘Critical Thinking’

In a Nature News opinion piece, James Shelton, science adviser for USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, discusses media coverage of recent findings from the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases showing that women’s use of hormonal contraception (HC) may increase the risk of HIV acquisition or transmission. “Whether HC influences HIV risk is a serious concern, and has been the subject of numerous studies. But these studies have been observational and not randomized, and thus potentially biased by who chooses to use HC,” Shelton writes. He uses “causality criteria laid down by British epidemiologist Austin Bradford Hill” to analyze the results, adding, “I find the evidence far from persuasive.”

Family Planning A Cost-Effective Strategy To Reduce Poverty, Conflict And Environmental Damage

In his New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof writes that family planning is “a solution to many of the global problems that confront us, from climate change to poverty to civil wars,” but that it “has been a victim of America’s religious wars” and is “starved of resources.” Kristof discusses the potential impacts of overpopulation as the global population surpasses seven billion and adds, “What’s needed isn’t just birth control pills or IUDs. It’s also girls’ education and women’s rights — starting with an end to child marriages — for educated women mostly have fewer children.” He concludes, “We should all be able to agree on voluntary family planning as a cost-effective strategy to reduce poverty, conflict and environmental damage. If you think family planning is expensive, you haven’t priced babies” (11/2).

Nicaragua’s Abortion Law Becomes Issue In Presidential Election

“Nicaragua is heading for presidential elections, and among the issues dividing people in this mostly Catholic country is abortion,” with advocates marching in the streets of the capital Managua to show support for overturning a ban on therapeutic abortions that was instituted five years ago, Al Jazeera reports. “With one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Latin America, Nicaragua is one of the few countries in the world that bans therapeutic abortions,” the news agency notes (Newman, 11/2).

Bloomberg News Examines How Latin American Countries’ Abortion Policies May Hold Lessons For Republican Presidential Candidates Supporting Abortion Bans In U.S.

Bloomberg News examines abortion laws in Latin America and writes that the region, “home to the world’s strictest abortion laws, may hold lessons for U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls who advocate a ban on the practice” in the U.S. According to Bloomberg, “A consequence of the laws, whatever the moral arguments, is that Latin American women have more ‘unsafe’ abortions per capita than women in any other region, according to the World Health Organization.” The article reports that the U.N. Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Health Anand Grover recently stated that “[s]trict abortion laws ‘consistently generate poor physical health outcomes, resulting in deaths.’”

China’s ‘One-Child Policy’ Delayed World’s Reaching Population Of 7 Billion; China To Maintain Policy

“The world’s population is expected to hit seven billion around October 31,” CNN’s Jaime FlorCruz reports in his column, “Jaime’s China.” This is a number that would have been reached five years earlier were it not for China’s family planning policy, according to Zhai Zhenwu, a professor at Renmin University School of Sociology and Population. FlorCruz writes that experts at the National Population and Family Planning Commission of China say “the policy has prevented more than 400 million births in the country.”

World Population Reaches 7 Billion Amid Warnings About Health, Natural Resources

“Countries around the world marked the world’s population reaching seven billion Monday with lavish ceremonies for newborn infants symbolizing the milestone and warnings that there may be too many humans for the planet’s resources,” the Associated Press/MSNBC.com reports (10/31). “With the world’s population more than doubling over the last half century, basics like food and water are under more strain than ever, say experts, and providing for an additional two to three billion people in the next 50 years is a serious worry,” AlertNet/Reuters writes, adding that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says food production will have to increase by 70 percent to keep pace. “But climate change may be the greatest impediment to meeting this target, say experts,” the news agency notes (Kumar/Bhalla, 10/31).

Opinion Pieces Address World Population Of 7 Billion

Though demographers do not know exactly when the world’s population will hit seven billion, the U.N. symbolically marked the day on Monday with celebrations and warnings about safety, health and sustainability. The following is a summary of several opinion pieces published in recognition of the day.

Exclusion Of Family Planning, HIV Prevention From Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Partnership Is ‘Counter-Intuitive’

In this Huffington Post opinion piece, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, examines the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership, which was launched last month by PEPFAR in conjunction with the George W. Bush Institute, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and UNAIDS with the aim of “integrat[ing] cervical and breast cancer education, screening, and treatment with HIV services.” She continues, “Given that women living with HIV are at an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, it makes sense. It’s a logical and critical part of what PEPFAR is calling care and support services.” But while the initiative “has the potential to reduce the number of cancer deaths among women living with HIV and improve their overall health,” the fact “that planning a family and preventing further HIV transmission is not part of what PEPFAR is calling care and support” is “counter-intuitive and counter-productive,” Sippel writes.

Zanzibar’s Islamic Leaders Use Qur’an To Shift Attitudes About Sex, Contraception, HIV/AIDS

The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” examines how religious leaders on the island of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, are using the Qur’an to shift attitudes about the issues of sex, contraception, and HIV/AIDS in an effort to reduce HIV infection, improve maternal health and curb rapid population growth. “Their aim is to shift deep-rooted views in their devout Islamic society that contraception is a sin,” according to the blog. “Compared with the Tanzanian mainland, Zanzibar has half the rate of use of contraception — just 13 percent in fertile women in 2011 — and more than double the proportion of Muslims, at 95 percent,” the blog notes, adding that imams’ work to educate the population is working, as “contraceptive use has crept up from nine percent to 13 percent in the past four years” (Carrington, 10/31).

GlobalPost Series Examines Consequences Of Child Marriage In Nepal

As part of a special report called “Child Brides,” GlobalPost features a two-part series looking at child marriage in Nepal. “The practice carries with it devastating consequences for young girls’ health and wellbeing, child advocates say, and yet the social, economic and cultural pressures associated with the tradition make it difficult to end. Officially, it is against the law to marry under the age of 20, but these laws go ignored, particularly in remote areas. The child marriage rate is dropping in Nepal, yet the practice is still common among poor, rural families,” according to the first article (Win, 10/30). The second article looks at how Nepalese women who marry young have reduced opportunities to receive a formal education (Win, 10/30).