Access for Everyone, Everywhere - Reflections from Day One of the International Conference on Family Planning

Heather M. Finn

CCP | Operations Director


Yesterday (November 29, 2011) marked the opening ceremonies of the second International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal. The city of Dakar welcomed over 2,400 participants from 88 countries to the conference, which is being hosted by The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Senegal’s Ministry of Health and Prevention. 

At the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project, I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with many experts in the area of family planning/reproductive health (FP/RH). Already within the first day, I have seen many of these individuals here at the conference; some of them I am meeting in person for the first time. Beyond just matching names to faces, though, the real excitement of this conference comes from the camaraderie and common interests of the conference participants. Regardless of gender, class, nationality, professional title—everyone is at this conference to discuss the ways to meet family planning needs and improve people’s lives all over the world. I think every participant would agree that you can’t help but feel the excitement in the air. 

In his keynote speech Tuesday evening, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), proclaimed energetically that “family planning is like oxygen: everyone should get it.” He really captured the sentiment of the entire conference hall. Everyone is energized and ready to work together to ensure that FP is available and accessible to everyone who needs it.

One of the key themes at this historic conference is the “value of community-based workers.” Frontline health workers play a crucial role, as they can help fill gaps in FP services. Related to this theme, a goal of the K4Health project is to ensure that a range of health professionals—including community-based workers—have access to the latest information and know how to put it to use. In order to effectively provide these critical services, community-based workers need to be fully equipped not only with contraceptive supplies (condoms and oral contraceptives, for example), but also with the latest information on contraceptive methods. Such information allows them to counsel women and couples on safe and appropriate contraception options, which in turn improves FP service delivery. 

To this end, K4Health has released an updated version of the Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers, a quick-reference resource for all levels of health care workers, which includes the latest research and evidence on family planning. K4Health is sponsoring an auxiliary event tonight in Dakar, in order to launch the updated handbook. We expect a good turnout at this event, as we have already seen significant interest in the handbook during the first day of the conference. At the CCP table in the exhibit hall, people waited in line to see this updated “bible” of FP, and we have already received over 8,000 requests for hard copies of the handbook. 

At the auxiliary event tonight, we will also launch:

I look forward to participating in the rest of this inspiring conference, and we are excited to launch the Handbook at tonight’s event! 

We welcome Heather Johnson, Operations Manager on the Knowledge for Health (K4Health Project) to the K4Health Blog.