Linking Family Planning and Global Development

Review the Evidence

Evidence summaries

Family Planning High Impact Practices Can Improve Outcomes for Population, Health, and Environment Programs (PRB, 2018; PDF, 1.73MB) explores the promising opportunity that exists to expand the use of HIPs within population, health, and environment (PHE) projects. The brief illustrates how more robust and purposeful use of HIPs can lead to better family planning outcomes for PHE projects, and how PHE projects’ use of specific HIPs provides a valuable opportunity to enhance the HIP knowledge base.

The Importance of Human Reproductive Health and Rights for Cheetah Conservation. Photo: Jenna Brager.

The Importance of Human Reproductive Health and Rights for Cheetah Conservation (Cheetah Conservation Fund, Population & Sustainability Network, and Margaret Pyke Trust, 2018; PDF, 1.47MB) is perhaps one of the first papers to make connections between human reproductive health and rights and the conservation of a specific species. There is very often an overlap of the areas of most conservation significance and where the barriers to family planning services are greatest, and as human needs and settlements grow, so do pressures on cheetah habitat. Improving knowledge of contraception and the provision of rights-based family planning services can play a part of any conservation program.

Family Planning and Women’s Economic Empowerment: Incentive Effects and Direct Effects among Malaysian Women (Center for Global Development, 2017; PDF, 609KB) examines the potential of family planning programs to increase parents’ investment in their daughters, finding that FP may indeed raise girls’ educational attainment substantially. The authors also find that these early investments are linked to gains in women’s paid labor at prime working ages and to greater support for women’s elderly parents (a marker for women’s bargaining power within the household).

Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality © Fernando Moleres/Panos Pictures

Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality (UNFPA, 2017; PDF, 6.77MB) discusses the dimensions of inequality that contribute to unmet need for family planning, poverty, and lack of resources and opportunities for women and girls. Unmet need is often greatest among poor women, leading to health risks and lifelong economic repercussions that can affect future generations. Interventions that address multiple inequalities, including those in sexual and reproductive health, can unleash significant benefits, including health, human capital development, and the eradication of poverty.

The Tuungane project's Changes in Household Well-Being and Resilience 2011-2016 (2017; PDF, 4.57MB) provides the results of an integrated PHE project in Tanzania’s Kigoma Region, a remote area where people lack access to critical health services including modern contraception, safe water, and education. The study focuses on the pathways through which family planning impacts resilience to climate change effects.

The Effect of Reproductive Health Improvements on Women’s Economic Empowerment (PRB, 2017; PDF, 1.57MB) reviews the Population and Poverty (PopPov) Research Network’s most rigorous results from the past 10 years. Findings include: improvements in reproductive health do lead to improvements in women’s economic empowerment; expanding contraceptive use improves women’s agency, education, and labor force participation; and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy increase labor market participation.

Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability: Assessing the Science (Worldwatch Institute, 2016; PDF, 5.84MB) explores the evidence base demonstrating that the use of family planning contributes to environmental sustainability. Looking at pathways that lead through the slowing of population growth and the empowerment of women, the Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA) found a wide-ranging literature affirming that voluntary family planning promotes environmental benefits and that expanding access to it can help bring about an environmentally sustainable world that meets human needs.

Economic Empowerment: A Potential Pathway for Women and Girls to Gain Control Over Their Sexual and Reproductive Health. Adolescent girls have fun learning how to use a computer in Gondohali village, Bangladesh. © 2010 Sumon Yusuf, Courtesy of Photoshare

Evidence summaries: the HIPs briefs

The High Impact Practices in Family Planning (HIPs) team at USAID has developed briefs that synthesize the evidence and provide recommendations on how to implement selected HIPs.

Economic Empowerment: A Potential Pathway for Women and Girls to Gain Control Over Their Sexual and Reproductive Health (2017; PDF, 2.3MB) summarizes the current evidence on interventions used by family planning programs that sought to improve women’s or girls’ economic empowerment and that measured key family planning outcomes. The interventions cluster in three primary focus areas: vocational training, microfinance, and cash transfers (Goal 8).

The brief Educating Girls: Creating a foundation for positive sexual and reproductive health behaviors (2014; PDF, 395KB) describes the effect of girls’ education on family planning and reproductive health; highlights evidence-based practices that increase girls’ enrollment, retention, and participation in school; and provides recommendations for how the health sector can support keeping girls in school (Goal 4).

40 years of evidence; one comprehensive database

POPLINE is the world’s largest free database of family planning and reproductive health literature. POPLINE helps program managers, policy makers, and service providers in low- and middle-income countries gain access to scientific articles, reports, books, and unpublished documents. Browse the latest evidence on the Sustainable Development Goals and on key linkages between family planning and global development, or access resources on the connections between family planning and specific goals:

Editorials & commentaries

Omimo A, Taranta D, Ghiron L, Kabiswa C, Aibe S, Kodande M, Nalwoga C, Mugaya S, Onduso P. Applying ExpandNet’s Systematic Approach to Scaling Up in an Integrated Population, Health and Environment Project in East Africa. Social Sciences. 2018; 7(1):8.

The authors lay out ExpandNet’s systematic approach to scale-up and subsequently illustrates its application in the Lake Victoria Basin (HoPE-LVB) project, an integrated PHE project implemented in Uganda and Kenya. Results demonstrate the fundamental value of systematically designing and implementing the project with focused attention to scale-up, as well as the challenges involved.

Choi Y, Short Fabic M. Monitoring Progress in Equality for the Sustainable Development Goals: A Case Study of Meeting Demand for Family Planning. Glob Health Sci Pract. 2018;6(2):387-398. 

As demand for family planning has increasingly been satisfied, disparities between groups within a country have also generally declined but persist. To monitor disparity across countries and over time, the authors recommend comparing met demand by wealth quintile because it is most comparable to interpret and highly correlated with disparity by education, residence, and region. Within country, comparing disparity in met demand across geographic region can identify populations with greater need for programmatic purposes.

Li Q, Rimon JG. A Demographic Dividend of the FP2020 Initiative and the SDG Reproductive Health Target: Case Studies of India and Nigeria. Gates Open Research. 2018;2:11.

The authors estimate the short- and medium-term economic benefits from two major family planning goals: FP2020’s goal of adding 120 million modern contraceptive users by 2020 and SDG 3.7 of ensuring universal access to family planning by 2030. They conclude that tremendous economic benefits from meeting these family planning targets demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of investment in promoting access to contraceptive methods. Accelerated progress is needed to achieve the FP2020 and SDG goals and so reap the demographic dividend.

Goodkind D, Lollock L, Choi Y, McDevitt T, West L. The Demographic Impact and Development Benefits of Meeting Demand for Family Planning with Modern Contraceptive Methods. Global Health Action. 2017;11(1).

Many policymakers have embraced a benchmark goal that at least 75% of the demand for family planning in all countries be satisfied with modern contraceptive methods by 2030. This study examines the demographic impact (and development implications) of achieving the 75% benchmark in 13 low- and middle-income countries that are expected to be the furthest from achieving it. On average, meeting the benchmark would imply a 16 percentage point increase in modern contraceptive prevalence by 2030 and a 20% decline in youth dependency, which portends a potential demographic dividend to spur economic growth.

Starbird E, Norton M, Marcus R. Investing in Family Planning: Key to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Glob Health Sci Pract. 2016;4(2):191-210.

Voluntary family planning brings transformational benefits to women, families, communities, and countries. Investing in family planning is a development “best buy” that can accelerate achievement across the 5 Sustainable Development Goal themes of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership.


Topic last updated: March 27, 2019