Last year, contraception prevented 188 million unplanned pregnancies. That meant 112 million fewer abortions, 1.1 million fewer newborn deaths, and 150,000 fewer maternal deaths. Although these statistics sound encouraging, we still have a long way to go. Globally, more than 41% of the 208 million pregnancies that occur each year are unplanned. Many of these unplanned pregnancies occur among children aged 15-19, and pregnancy related deaths are the leading cause of death for women in this age group. Improved family planning and reproductive health are essential steps toward achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly Promoting Gender Equality (#3) and Improving Maternal Health (#5).
On September 26, 2013 the world will come together to promote family planning on the seventh annual World Contraception Day (WCD). Seventy countries participated in this initiative in 2012, and more are expected to join in this year. World Contraception day is supported by a coalition of 11 NGOs, including International Planned Parenthood Federation, and is sponsored by Bayer HealthCare. The worldwide campaign advocates for a “world where every pregnancy is wanted.” The campaign includes events around the globe for teens, teachers, parents, and medical staff.
The WCD aims to get young people involved and invested in reproductive choices. Across Latin America, WCD has partnered with MTV to challenge young people to come up with inspiring initiatives to address sexual and reproductive health in their communities.
Community Health Workers (CHWs) can be a vital part of the campaign for adequate and effective family planning. In Ethiopia, community health workers have worked closely to expand access to and uptake of post-partum family planning services. In Pakistan, the Lady Health Worker program was launched in 2000 and employs 100,000 local community women to provide services for family planning and primary health care. There has been new and promising evidence that community health workers can effectively distribute and administer Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive that lasts for approximately 3 months.
Also, exciting new inroads have been made with generic contraception. Last year, a group of seven generic contraceptive manufacturers created the Generic Manufacturers for Reproductive Health (GEMS) caucus in order to collectively distribute low-cost quality assured contraceptive products to more than 50 countries. These manufacturers are from India, Germany, Switzerland, Indonesia, and China, and membership is expected to expand. Community health workers will be a vital part of the distribution and education efforts surrounding this new initiative.
Here at the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign (1mCHW), we advocate for safe, evidence-based involvement of CHWs in reproductive health and family planning. We know that women who are able to control their reproductive health are more likely to get educated, earn higher wages, and have better health outcomes overall. World Contraception Day is one more reminder of the headway we’ve made on the MDGs as a global community and of the progress we still can make in this upcoming year.
Guest Blogger: Jacqueline DePasse, MD Massachusetts General Hospital