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Family Planning & Reproductive Health

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Philippines Experiencing Increasing Number Of New HIV Cases; Leaders Say Country Should Reconsider Policies

“At a time when many countries are seeing their HIV infection rates level off or decline,” health officials in the Philippines “have seen an unexpected surge in cases in the past several years, with a more than five-fold increase between 2007 and 2011, with 2,349 new cases last year,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Southeast Asia Real Time” blog reports, noting, “The total number of cases as of April 2012 is 9,396, compared to just 3,061 in 2007.” The blog continues, “Doctors are still trying to determine the cause of the unexpected increase. Either way, domestic and international HIV experts have been warning for a while that the Philippines has all the necessary ingredients for an HIV epidemic,” including low condom use, communities where multiple sexual partners or sex workers are widespread, and workers who travel overseas, “often in jobs or in regions that have relatively high rates of infection.”

Examining Teenage Pregnancy, Maternal Mortality In Africa

In this audio report in PRI’s “The World,” PRI anchor “Aaron Schachter talks to Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher on women’s rights in Africa for New York-based Human Rights Watch, about the terrible toll of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in Africa.” “Teenage pregnancy is an issue of pandemic proportions in Africa,” Odhiambo said, adding, “Teenage pregnancy is really an issue that has serious negative consequences for girls, for the development of communities and for the development of cultures.” She discussed progress toward reducing maternal deaths in various African countries and said that a number of factors contribute to maternal mortality, including a lack of sexual education for young girls, some traditional practices, such as early marriage, and the inadequate provision of health services (7/3).

Indonesia Must Work To Empower Women In Order To Improve Maternal Health Standards

Though Indonesia is “widely seen as a development success story — indeed, it is sometimes referred to as one of Asia’s ‘rising powers’ … in the area of maternal health, the successes have been modest and much remains to be done,” Andrew Rosser, associate director of the Indo-Pacific Governance Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, writes in an Inside Indonesia opinion piece. “Indonesia is on track to meet many of these goals,” including those related to poverty, child nutrition and mortality, education, and tuberculosis and malaria, “[b]ut it is well off track when it comes to goals related to maternal health,” he states. The country also is “failing to meet its targets on the use of modern methods of contraception and reducing the ‘unmet need’ for family planning — that is, the proportion of couples who want to limit the number of children they have but do not have access to contraception,” Rosser notes.

Working To Increase Access To Reproductive Health Services In Ghana

In the second post in a series titled “Imagine a World…,” posted on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Faustina Fynn-Nyame, director of Marie Stopes International in Ghana, discusses reproductive health in Ghana, writing, “For some women here, choices about reproductive health are something they take for granted,” but “other women in Ghana — indeed most — are not able to do this.” She continues, “So, with our partners, we work hard to give more women equal access to contraception and sexual and reproductive health services, right here, with our own countrywomen,” and highlights several ways in which they are working to accomplish this goal (7/2).

Blog Posts Address London Summit On Family Planning

The London Summit on Family Planning, co-sponsored by the U.K. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with support from UNFPA and other partners, is scheduled to take place next week. The following blog posts address the summit and the issue of family planning.

Advocates Leave Rio+20 'More Determined Than Ever' To Secure Access To Reproductive Rights For All Women

“There is a direct correlation between access to voluntary family planning, women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability,” author Diane MacEachern writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “And though the official delegates to last week’s ‘Earth Summit’ tried to water it down, thousands of grassroots activists made it one of the biggest issues to rock Rio+20, as the event was also called.” She continues, “Women took these issues to Rio because more than 200 million women in the U.S. and around the world cannot choose whether or when to have a baby, simply because they don’t have access to voluntary family planning.”

Expert Panel Discusses Family Planning Issues In Guardian Podcast

In this global development podcast, the Guardian’s Annie Kelly is joined by Julia Bunting, head of the U.K. Department for International Development’s reproductive health team; Yasmin Ahmed, senior regional director for Asia at Marie Stopes International; Neil Datta, coordinator of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development; and Gita Sen, professor at the Centre for Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management, for a discussion about family planning ahead of the July 11 London Summit on Family Planning. According to the Guardian, they examine “how and why such a controversial issue has become a worldwide priority,” and ask, “[W]hat are the political and practical challenges and what is at stake in such debates?” The podcast also includes comments from “Sarah Boseley, the Guardian’s health editor, Carmen Barrosso, western hemisphere director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Ney Costa, from the Brazilian NGO Bemfam, and from readers who commented on our talk point,” the newspaper adds (Kelly, 7/2).

Philippines To Spend Nearly $12M On Contraceptives To Bolster Family Planning, Reduce Maternal Mortality Rate

The government of the Philippines plans to spend nearly $12 million on contraceptives this year in an effort to “save its ‘failed’ family planning program and drastically cut maternal deaths,” according to the Department of Health, IRIN reports. However, “[i]t is a controversial decision that even public health officials and family planning advocates admit may not be carried out by local officials wary of angering the [Catholic] Church or losing the votes of Catholic supporters,” the news service writes. In addition to purchasing and distributing condoms, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), birth control pills, and other contraceptives “on a large scale for the first time in largely underfunded community centers across the country,” health officials say the plan “is aimed at cutting maternal mortality rates, which went from just 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 221 in 2011 — a rise [of] 35 percent — according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey,” IRIN notes.

Working To Reduce Adolescent Pregnancy In Zimbabwe

As part of a monthly series of posts guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG), this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog by Primrose Nanchani Manyalo, a field officer at Restless Development, discusses how “adolescent pregnancy is a harsh reality that many young girls encounter.” Manyalo talks about her work with young women in Zimbabwe, and says everyone has a role to play in helping to prevent adolescent pregnancy. She concludes, “Young women need increased access to equal opportunities, education in sexual and reproductive health, youth-friendly services, social support, education, employment, and empowering life skills, so that unplanned childbearing does not hinder the achievement of their dreams at a young age” (6/29).

London Summit On Family Planning Poised To Provide 'Staggering' Results

The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).