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Health journalists, the time is now to cover family planning

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Added 17th December 2018 05:15 PM

I would therefore like to share with you briefly the main topics/tracks that were covered at the conference and to challenge you to do more in covering this important subject considering the benefits it renders our communities and countries.

 Health journalists, the time is now to cover family planning

I would therefore like to share with you briefly the main topics/tracks that were covered at the conference and to challenge you to do more in covering this important subject considering the benefits it renders our communities and countries.


By Deusdedit Ruhangariyo

Fellow health/science journalists, recently I was honored to attend the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP 2018) that took place in Kigali, Rwanda courtesy of Population Reference Bureau with support from USAID.

The theme of the conference was ‘Investing for a lifetime of returns'. That theme spoke volumes to me because as health journalists we seem not to be investing in these returns as a role and a livelihood.

I would therefore like to share with you briefly the main topics/tracks that were covered at the conference and to challenge you to do more in covering this important subject considering the benefits it renders our communities and countries.

As a trainer, I think that each track is a strong story idea to explore and to pitch to your editors that could endear your media to your audiences but also bring in revenue. 

The following were the major topics covered at ICFP 2018 in Kigali: 

1.Returns on investment in family planning and the demographic dividend

This track tackled complex aspects of realizing various returns on investment in family planning and taking advantage of the demographic dividend potential. 

With fewer births each year, a country's working-age population grows larger relative to the young dependent population.

With more people in the labor force and fewer children to support, a country has a window of opportunity for economic growth if the right social and economic investments and policies are made in health, education, governance and the economy. 

2.Policy, financing, and accountability

The presentations explored the broad funding landscape, costs and financing strategies for family planning.

They covered both the public and private sectors and highlighted various accountability strategies in the context of family planning. It also explored data utilization efforts for policy, advocacy and accountability.

My take from this track was to follow every dime invested in family planning. And many other angles that could interest you.

3. Demand generation and social and behavior change 

Social and behavior change (SBC) interventions and demand generation activities seek to influence people to make healthier decisions that ultimately create long-lasting positive impact on health and well-being.

Effective demand generation and SBC interventions work to improve communication between providers, clients, families, couples and community members and increase engagement of community leaders and other decision-makers.

They are grounded in theory, a tested design and implementation process and have measurable impact. 

4.Fertility intentions and family planning

Advancing understanding of fertility intentions is an important precursor to achievement of reducing unintended pregnancies.

Three sessions on this topic included 1) measurement and outcomes of fertility preferences; 2) consequences and estimates of unintended pregnancy; and 3) understanding fertility desires of married adolescents.

Among an estimated 885 million women of in low- and middle-income countries who want to avoid pregnancy, 24% have unmet need for modern contraception. 

5.Reproductive rights and gender empowerment 

Putting family planning in context, this track focused on factors that inhibit and enable sexual and reproductive health choices and what can be done to address them in programs and policies. It covers gender-based and intimate partner violence, post abortion care and human rights.

It also presented new options and evidence for women's self-care, innovations in understanding women's autonomy and using digital health methods to reduce women's risk of violence.

An unprecedented panel explored connections between sexual pleasure, family planning and reproductive health. 

6.Improving quality of care

Provision of quality of care in family planning services is critical to improving use of family planning methods, both by attracting new contraceptive users and by maintaining existing users.

The track covered a range of research and program issues that address quality of care aspects in family planning.

Presentations in this track aim to inform the design, implementation, and evaluation of high-quality family planning programs by discussing the role quality of care plays in the success of such programs, describing novel interventions to improve quality of care, and proposing new approaches to measure and monitor family planning service quality. 

7.Expanding access to family planning

Access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right. In order to ensure that 
individuals are empowered to exercise this right, it is imperative that our field continue to identify ways to expand access to family planning.

This track focused on a wide array of approaches to do so including addressing: socioeconomic, geographic, and demographic inequalities; challenges and solutions to broadening the method mix; task shifting and community-based delivery approaches; total market approach; public-private partnerships to expand access; the safety and effectiveness of various contraceptive methods, and other approaches

8. Advances in contraceptive technology and contraceptive commodity security

To address current and future unmet need for family planning, advances in contraceptive technology and contraceptive commodity security are required. Supply-side interventions complement demand creation activities to ensure the availability of a wide range of client-accepted contraceptive methods.

Accurate supply planning as well as timely and well-coordinated procurement, warehousing and logistics reduce stock outs, support uninterrupted access to family planning, and enhance client satisfaction. 

This track therefore highlighted recent advances to improve logistics and commodity security and describes efforts to address barriers to access and use of contraception through development and introduction of novel contraceptives. 

9.Integration of family planning into health and development Programs

Access to and use of voluntary quality and equitable family planning services will 
contribute significantly to the global community's ability to realize the complex 
and integrated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda. 

Integration of family planning with services for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, Integration of family planning with primary health care services, Integrating of family planning with population, health, and environment program, Integration of reproductive health and climate adaptation programs, Integration of family planning with socio-economic development programs

10. Sexual and reproductive health and rights among adolescents and youth

Adolescents and young people lag behind when it comes to access to family planning services. To achieve the FP2020 goal of increasing family planning uptake among girls and women, many barriers faced by young people have to be overcome.

From the youth themselves, the communities around them, health facilities and policies, there is need to come up with innovative approaches to help youth access family planning without fear of stigma and discrimination.

Family planning information and services that will reach the different segments of young people will go a long way in ensuring that unplanned pregnancies are a thing of the past.

In addition, young people, who know their challenges, must be involved in planning and designing programs that benefit them. This is the only way we can have thriving and transformed young people who live a fulfilled life

11. Men and family planning

The Men and Family Planning track embodies state of the art research and interventions that focus on the role of men in Family Planning.

Though most modern contraceptive methods are woman-centered, experimental studies around the world have shown that involving male partners leads to greater contraceptive acceptance and continuation. 

Presentations in this track reflected on a critical understanding of the role masculinities play in limiting men's access to health services.

This includes research on men's preferences, knowledge and use of contraceptive methods. Exemplary interventions promote positive gender norms 

and gender equity among couples, which is often facilitated through improved communication between men and their partners as well as with providers and peers

12.Family planning and reproductive health in humanitarian settings

The number of people affected by humanitarian emergencies and forcibly displaced from their homes hit a record high of 68.5 million by the end of 2017. Humanitarian emergencies pose various negative sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes to populations affected.

The right to quality SRH is an indispensable part of the right to health and these services should be made available and accessible.

Crises often intensify gender inequalities and reinforce gender hierarchies with serious implications on the SRH of individuals. 

In many humanitarian settings, refugees and internally displaced populations encounter poor and/or suboptimal conditions affecting their access to basic and essential SRH services such as family planning. 

13. Faith and family planning

More than 200 million women in the developing world want to avoid pregnancy but currently are not using family planning (FP).

Despite the significant amount of attention and resources being focused on FP to address this challenge, historically limited efforts have been made to engage faith-based organizations (FBOs) and religious leaders in Family Planning. 

14.Urbanization and reproductive health

High levels of urbanization, fueled by persistent migration from rural areas in search of better livelihood opportunities represent an important dimension of Africa's (and Uganda's) demographic system. Despite its status as the world's least urbanized region, the sub-Saharan African region currently has the fastest rate of urban growth in the world at 4% per annum.

The urban population in the region will increase from the current 37% to over 60% by 2050. The high rate of urbanization has been linked to increasing urbanization of poverty, with approximately 70% of all urban residents in the region estimated to be living in slums or in slum-like environments.

The urban poor across the sub-Saharan African region are characterized by negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes, including high rates of unwanted pregnancies, high fertility, STI's, and poor maternal and child health outcomes.

Targeting urban inequities in access to sexual and reproductive health services, in general, and family planning services, in particular, are therefore critical. 

15. Advances in monitoring and evaluation methods

Availability and use of data for family planning programs has significantly grown in the past decade, but there is an increased demand for better information and methods for monitoring and evaluation. 

This track focused on issues and data use in monitoring and programmatic decision-making, advances in measurement of family planning indicators and quality and use of data from health management information systems in various settings


Therefore colleagues, let us do our part. All these issues impact our lives since they impact ourselves, our relatives, communities and countries. Each of the highlighted tract/topic can make an award winning and community enhancing story. Let us explore them and pitch to our editors as we invest in a lifetime of returns. 



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