New research reinforces universal access to modern contraception as critical to sustainable global development


Nov. 9, 2015 — Family planning, as a “critical component” of sustainable global development, is the central theme of a collection of papers published today in the journal Global Health Action, planned in conjunction with the 2015 International Conference on Family Planning. Despite volcanic activity in Indonesia forcing the postponement of the meeting, this important collection of work is nevertheless published as scheduled.

GHA_Cover_300x400This Special Issue on family planning, within the framework of Countdown to 2015 for maternal, newborn and child survival, supports United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s Every Woman Every Child strategy, which intends to address major health challenges faced by women and children globally. The strategy falls under the recently agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the past 25 years, “considerable progress has been made in women’s sexual and reproductive health, including increases in contraceptive use globally, expanded access to skilled maternity care and the reduction of new HIV infections and maternal and newborn deaths,” writes Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his editorial accompanying the eight original research articles in the Special Issue.

Nevertheless current estimates show that 30 million unplanned births and 40 million abortions, half of which are illegal and unsafe, still occur around the world annually. “The papers in this Special Issue reinforce the centrality of universal access to modern contraception within the SDGs and targets set for 2030,” stressed Dr. Osotimehin.

Among key findings highlighted in the Special Issue are:

  • To reach the SDG target of three-quarters of “demand satisfied” for modern methods of contraception, uptake needs to more than double its current average growth projections across the 63 countries analyzed.
  • Studies in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Nigeria found substantial variations in modern contraceptive use between rural and urban areas, and by other socioeconomic factors. Women not using modern contraception tended to experience higher birth risks and increased child mortality.
  • Among adolescents in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Nigeria, a two-track picture emerged: many poorer girls in rural areas were involved in early marriages that effectively blocked their access to contraception; at the same time urban adolescents were increasingly making use of family planning services, as part of more modern single lifestyles and postponement of first pregnancies.
  • The data from Ethiopia indicate reductions of equity gap by residence, educational level as well as rapid increase in coverage of modern contraception
  • Data from Ethiopia, Malawi and Nigeria showed that although many women were in contact with health services during and immediately after their pregnancies, in many cases opportunities to provide family planning during those contacts – thus hopefully ensuring a good interval before a woman’s next pregnancy – were missed.
  • New methods of analyzing the effects of short pregnancy intervals on childhood deaths confirmed that closely-spaced pregnancies are indeed detrimental.

The Special Issue’s Editor, Prof. Peter Byass, says “Global Health Action is delighted to be able to inform the international policy debate on these critical issues for family planning over the coming decade. Women worldwide deserve and must get the best reproductive health services, to safeguard themselves, their children and their livelihoods”.

“Access to modern contraception,” writes Osotimehin, “can spur the economy, protect the environment, and contribute to overall poverty reduction. … We thus call on world leaders and financiers to join forces and work towards the future we want, a future in which every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”

All of the papers in the supplement are freely available online at Global Health Action.


Media Contact
Angela Walseng

Notes & Additional Resources
Global Health Action is an international peer-reviewed Open Access journal affiliated with the Centre for Global Health Research (CGH) at Umeå University, Sweden, and published by Co-Action Publishing.