International Conference on Family Planning 2009

Family Planning: Research and Best Practices

Welcome Back to Family Planning

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In the opening plenary of the International Conference on Family Planning, Professor Amy Tsui welcomed more than 1,300 participants from 59 countries to the International Conference on Family Planning. Lamenting the decline in attention to family planning over the last decade, Tsui, director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, expressed hope that this conference would usher in a new era of focus on this critical issue. “Welcome back to family planning,” she said, to the delight of the audience.

Among other highlights from the opening plenary:

  • William Bazeyo, dean of the Makerere University School of Public Health, addressed the remarkable population growth in Uganda—with a population of 31 million in June, 2009, the average woman bears nearly seven children in her lifetime, and the country has a very high maternal rate of 435 deaths per 100,000 live births. Too many births, too close together, are factors often cited as contributing greatly to maternal mortality and morbidity. “Family planning is a lifesaver for millions of women in the working world,” said Bazeyo.
  • Michael J. Klag, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, noted that this is the first international family planning conference in the last 17 years, said, “This is a historic date…We need it [family planning] now like we’ve never needed it before.”
  • Dr. Werner Haug, of the UNFPA, called this a “landmark conference,” and said that universal access to family planning—a tenet of Millennium Development Goal 5B—has the potential to reduce maternal mortality by 40 percent. In addition, he provided a stunning calculation: It would cost an estimated $23 billion per year to stop unintended pregnancies across the world, and save the lives of mothers and newborns; “That is less than 10 days of global military spending.”
  • The Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union, called for greater attention to family planning in Africa. Dr. Bience Gawanas spoke of maternal mortality as “the shame of our continent,” and she urged the global community to fight against the “silent emergency” that is maternal mortality. She had the audience chant with her, “Africa cares. No woman should die while giving life.
  • Dr. Scott Radloff, representing USAID, cheered the new Obama administration for making family planning and reproductive health a priority. “We have a champion in President Obama,” he said. He also reminded the audience that have only five years remaining to meet the Millennium Development Goals of 2015. “We’re not half way there,” he said. “Some countries are not on quarter of the way there.”
  • From the Ugandan Ministry of Health, Dr. Stephen Mallinga cited the 3.2 percent population growth rate in Uganda. Unfortunately, he said, condoms are “not very popular here,” and there are many misconceptions of family planning in sub-Saharan Africa. There is a great need for educating the population, he added. Addressing the drain on resources imposed by a burgeoning population growth, Mallinga said, “All in all, this spells doom for the women and men, the children, and the community.” Economic growth would be better stimulated, he said, not by population growth, but by greater health.

Written by C. Grillo | JHSPH

November 16, 2009 at 12:09 am

Posted in Opening Plenary

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